Threat level: High
The current travel safety advice for Burundi is to remain extra vigilant when visiting this country. There are travel advisories in place advising against all travel to certain parts of the country, especially the bordering areas near to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Please check advisories with your local embassy before you travel.
Recent security risk events
Attackers thought to be linked to Al Shabab have launched several grenade attacks at army patrols and at police officers in the capital, Bujumbura, killing several people since early 2016. Bujumbura has recently witnessed a string of grenade and bomb attacks, dozens of Burundian Army soldiers have been killed by Al Shabab in Somalia too.
There is political unrest at present with the United Nations declaring the latest election (2015) “not free or credible”. There was a failed coup d’etat on 13th May 2015 and the political future is not certain.
In January 2017 the environmental minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was assassinated in the capital city of Bujumbura. Although nobody has claimed responsibility, arrests have been made in relation to the attack.
There is an external threat posed in the region by the Islamist Al Shabaab group. Although based in Somalia, there has already been a spill over to neighbouring countries, such as the September 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi and the May 2014 attack against a restaurant in Djibouti.
Burundi is one of the ten least developed countries in the world. As of 2014 Burundi has the lowest per capita GDP (of any country) in the world. Its lack of wealth can be attributed to a number of reasons: it has been hit hard by HIV/AIDS virus which has caused widespread poverty and strained medical services. The country further has a history of ethnic violence between the Hutu and Tutsi factions. A new constitution was established in 2005 and after which, the country elected a majority Hutu government.
Visitors to the country should take great care to restrict travel to daylight hours. Police and other officials may seek bribes so tourists need to be aware of this, and have emergency contact details of their embassy or consulate.
The general level of crime is high in Burundi. There have been many reported muggings and hi-jackings, in most of these cases a high level of violence was used. Knife and gun crime is a regular occurrence. You should remain wary of your surroundings at all times.
The political situation in Burundi still remains tense and there have been a number of violent attacks, particularly against those perceived to be opposed to the election of Nkurunziza’s third term. The police have been known to discharge live ammunition and tear gas into groups of demonstrators. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings at all costs and keep close watch of local media.
Burundi and Rwanda often have violent border disputes and as such relations between the countries are strained.
The country has recently become a member of various international and regional organizations, including the United Nations and the African Union.
Land border crossings are only temporarily open, the situation is unpredictable and they may be closed without advance warning at any time. The overall conditions of the roads are poor and they are often blocked or impassable due landslides, especially after heavy rain, this is mostly during the wet season.
Most border crossings between Burundi and Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, and Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are currently open. However, there are an increasing number of police and military check points.