The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to Burundi. This notice replaces the Travel Warning for Burundi, dated May 19, 2010, to provide information regarding travel to and within Burundi, as well as revised information on security restrictions for Embassy personnel.
Burundi was plagued by a civil war from 1993 to 2006 that often involved non-governmental and non-combatant targets. In December 2008, the government and the last rebel group, the PALIPEHUTU–FNL, signed their final cease-fire agreement. During 2009, the rebels demobilized in accordance with the terms of the agreement and registered as an officially-recognized political party known as the FNL. Between May and September 2010, Burundi held a series of five elections covering all elected offices at all levels of government which domestic and international observers considered to be credible. Some opposition parties claim that the elections were fraudulent, however, and the potential for continued political conflict remains high.
Burundi continues to experience politically motivated attacks. In October 2010, an unidentified armed group attacked the Bujumbura residence of a government official. Security forces returned fire in an exchange of gunfire that lasted almost an hour. U.S. citizens should avoid potential political targets such as party headquarters and meeting spots. Exchanges of gunfire and grenade attacks are common even in densely populated urban areas. U.S. citizens should stay indoors, in a ground floor interior room, if gunfire occurs nearby.
There are no known armed militia groups operating in Burundi; however, weapons are easy to obtain and some ex-combatants may have turned to crime or political violence. Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits or street children, poses the highest risk for foreign visitors to both Bujumbura and Burundi in general. Common crimes include muggings, burglaries, robberies, and carjackings. Visitors should keep vehicle doors locked and windows up, and be careful when stopped in heavy traffic due to the threat of robbery. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of armed criminals ambushing vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. The U.S. Embassy prohibits U.S. government personnel from walking on the streets after dark and from using local public transportation at any time. Due to a lack of resources, local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance during an emergency.
U.S. citizens should be aware that even peaceful gatherings and demonstrations can turn violent. U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Burundi are reminded to maintain a high level of security awareness at all times and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind. Even seemingly peaceful sporting events can become politicized and turn violent. U.S. citizens should monitor the situation via local media sources and the internet. Significant traffic congestion, shortages of lodging availability, and large crowds throughout the country, particularly in Bujumbura, are likely to inconvenience travelers.
The U.S. Embassy continues to caution U.S. citizens that travel outside the capital, Bujumbura, presents significant risks, especially after nightfall. The U.S. Embassy restricts travel of its personnel in Burundi: within 30 km of the city, employees may travel in single vehicles, but must check in and out with the Embassy. The Embassy's Regional Security Officer (RSO) must pre-approve all Embassy personnel travel outside this approximately 30-km radius of Bujumbura, and employees must travel by an approved itinerary in two-vehicle convoys equipped with satellite phones and emergency equipment. All employee movement outside the city after dark is forbidden; the Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn. U.S. citizens are also encouraged to avoid traveling within the city of Bujumbura after midnight.
Corruption is endemic in Burundi and contributes to an environment where the rule of law is not respected. Government officials frequently ask for bribes for providing routine services. Travelers are frequently stopped, questioned and asked for bribes by security forces at numerous official and unofficial road blocks throughout the country. Likewise, criminals who have paid off local officials may operate without fear of prosecution.
U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Burundi despite this Travel Warning are urged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura for information on the latest Embassy security guidelines, and to enroll at the State Department's Travel Registration website. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura at Avenue des Etats-Unis. The hours for non-emergency American Citizen Services are 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesday, and 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Fridays. The Embassy Consular section can be reached by telephone, including for after-hours emergencies, at (257) 22-20-7000, or by fax at (257) 22-22-2926. Security information for U.S. citizens in Burundi is posted at Embassy's Bujumbura's website.
For further information, consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for Burundi and the current Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov. Updated information on travel and security in Burundi is available at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, and for callers in other countries, a regular toll line at 202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
Travel Warnings are issued by the U.S. Department of State to describe long-term, protracted conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable.
Full name: Republic of Burundi
Location: Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Languages: Kirundi (official), French (official), Swahili (along Lake Tanganyika and in the Bujumbura area)