Bujumbura (French pronunciation: [buʒumbuʁa]), formerly Usumbura, is the largest city and main port of Burundi. It ships most of the country’s chief export, coffee, as well as cotton and tin ore. In late December 2018, Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he would follow through on a 2007 promise to return Gitega its former political capital status, with Bujumbura remaining as economical capital and center of commerce. A vote in the Parliament of Burundi made the change official on 16 January 2019, with all branches of government expected to move to Gitega within three years
Bujumbura is Burundi’s capital and largest city. Located on the northeastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, it is only a few miles from the frontier with the Democratic Republic of the Congo by boat through Lake Tanganyika.
Bujumbura grew from a small village after it became a military post during the German colonization of East Africa in 1899. After World War I, it was made the administrative center of the Belgian League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi, and was called Usumbura. The name was changed from Usumbura to Bujumbura when Burundi became independent in 1962.
During the 1990s, the city was the scene of civil wars. For more than a decade, battles between Burundi’s two main ethnic groups (Hutus and Tutsis) have destroyed hospitals, administrative buildings, the University of Burundi, and other schools in the city. The wars crippled the city’s economy which has in turn had a devastating effect on the entire nation since Bujumbura is the main commercial center and includes both the central market place to the financial district. It is also the location of the country’s only port and main airport. The conflict ended in 2005 and Bujumbura’s most recent census (2012) estimates the population to one million.
Despite its recent political and military turmoil, the city of Bujumbura remains vibrant. Its proximity to the beaches of Lake Tanganyika attracts tourists and it has long been considered one of East Africa’s best known cities for its night life and its ethnic restaurants which all varieties of food from traditional Burundian to French, Greek, Asian, Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, and Ethiopian. Bujumbura is also the center of beer manufacturing. Its two main brands Primus and Amstel are produced by Brarudi, the country’s only large-scale brewery.
Numerous western philanthropist organizations maintain their headquarters in Bujumbura. The largest is the United Nations’ regional peacekeeping mission operations headquarters.
Bujumbura is also headquarters of the city’s major religious groups. The Regina Mundi Cathedral is the administrative center of Burundi’s main Catholic Archdiocese. There is also a large Greek Orthodox Church for the followers of that faith. Le Centre Culturel Islamique in Bujumbura houses the Islamic Center and is the largest Muslim religious site in the city with less than 10% of population practicing the Islamic faith. Since Burundi is mostly Catholic, other religions such as Protestants represent 5-10%, while others such as the Greek Orthodox have no significant number of followers.
The Prince Louis Rwagasore Mausoleum and the National independence Monument are also found in Bujumbura.
Bujumbura features a tropical savanna climate (Köppen: Aw) with distinct wet and dry seasons. Its wet season is from October to April, while the dry season covers the remaining five months. Despite being located close to the equator, Bujumbura is not nearly as warm as one might expect, due to its altitude. Average temperatures are constant throughout the course of the year with the high temperature at around 29 °C (84 °F) and the low temperature at around 19 °C (66 °F).
Bujumbura is governed by a community council and community administrator. It is further divided into 3 communes, or neighborhoods, each with its own council and council leader.
Each of the 3 current communes were created from the 13 former communes (currently sub-communes), due to a 2014 reorganization, which in turn are further sub-divided into villages or zones:
Public transport in Bujumbura mainly consists of taxis and mini-buses, locally known as the Hiace. Public transport vehicles are generally white and blue.
Bujumbura’s taxis are abundant all over the city, and are considered the safest form of transportation. There are taxi-motos (motorcycle taxis) and taxis-vélos (bicycle taxis), although they are only available in certain parts of the city.
For long distance travel, locals prefer to take the many Hiace full-size vans, which travel regularly across Burundi. Bujumbura’s main bus terminal is located by the Central Market.
Bujumbura was also home of the independent weekly radio programme Imagine Burundi, the country’s first locally produced English-language programme that focused on stories about life in the region. The show was broadcast from September 2010 to August 2013, and recordings are archived on the show’s website at imagineburundi.com.
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