Did you know – In 1996, Burundi’s runner Venuste Niyongabo led his country to earn an Olympian title in the 5000 meters. For the first time in Olympic history, Burundi won a gold medal, making it not only the poorest country ever to win an Olympic title but also one of the 49 best Olympian teams at the XXVI Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, ahead of Argentina, Taiwan, Mexico, and India. But behind these efforts to reach gold medal, lies an impoverished country, which had one of the world’s most lethal conflicts in the 1990s. Otherwise, just a year ago, Mr. Niyongabo had earned a bronze medal in the 1500 meters at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden. He carried Burundi’s flag at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Name: Venuste Niyongabo
Height: 5’9″ (176 cm)
Weight: 132 lbs (60 kg)
Major Individual medals
1992: World Junior Championship – silver medal (1500m)
1994: Bislett Games – gold medal (1500m)
1995: Bislett Games – gold medal (1500m)
1995: World Championship – bronze medal (1500m)
1996: Summer Olympics – gold medal (5000m)
Did you know – The Republic of Burundi is a tiny landlocked nation of 8.5 million people. The major part of its territory is covered by mountains (over 2,000 ft. above sea level), lakes, tropical jungles (about the 30% of the land) and rivers. The sub-Saharan African republic is completely encircled by Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). It is about the size of Belgium.
Did you know – Under the name Burundi (former Ruanda-Urundi), the mountainous country, one of Africa’s smallest nations, gained independence from the Kingdom of Belgium on July 1, 1962. In the latter half of the 20th century, Burundi was one of the first black republics of the world.
Did you know – Against all odds, the Burundian squad won the right to compete at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Doha, Qatar, in the mid-1990s, where it finished 15th. Football (or soccer) is the national sport in the black republic, followed by track & field, basketball, boxing, and aquatics.
Women & Power
Did you know – Burundi and Rwanda were the first republics in Africa after the Central African Republic (Elisabeth Domitien) to have a female Prime Minister. A daughter of Burundi named Sylvie Kinigi was elected Head of Government in the early 1990s. It was a victory for Burundi’s women, where six of every ten women living below the poverty line.
Did you know – Coffee contributes more income to the country’s economy — like neighboring Rwanda– than any other single economic activity. Agriculture is the main activity (more than 60% of GDP).
United Nations & Burundi
Did you know – On September 18, 1962, Burundi– an area as large as Maryland State — became a member of the United Nations (and many of its specialized agencies). Nine years on, the French-speaking country, which was named Africa’s representative by delegates of the sub-Saharan African countries, had a set on the United Nations Security Council in New York City, America. Meanwhile, in the last decade of the 20th century, Burundi’s diplomat Nsanze Terence became one of the favorites to win the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations. By the 60s, the nation joined the Organization of African Unity (OUA).
Did you know – About 60 percent of the nation’s people are Christians. This religion was introduced into Burundi during the European colonial period. In this context, in September 1990, Pope John Paul II, the Catholic leader of the Vatican State, set foot on Burundian soil for the first time.
Did you know – Since the early 1990s, there is a new Constitution, which cleared the way for a multiparty system.
Did you know – The Burundian countryside is the home of many plant and animal species, including buffaloes, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and antelopes. Over the last decades, the Burundian rainforest was home to one of the world’s biggest crocodiles.
The Capital City
Did you know – Bujumbura is the capital and largest city of Burundi.
Did you know – The Hutu make up the nation’s largest ethnic group (80%), followed by Tutsis (14%) and Twa (1%).
Did you know – The Burundian Olympic Committee (BOC) sent a symbolic delegation of up to three national champs to the Summer Olympics in Beijing (People’s Republic of China) in August 2008. The Olympian members were: Francine Niyonizegiye (track & field/ women’s 5000m), Elsie Uwanahoro (swimming/ women’s 50m freestyle), and Joachim Nahimirimana (athletics/ men’s marathon). Contrary to most other African states, Burundi made its international debut in the mid-1990s when it competed at the 26th Olympiad in the United States. Prior to 1996, Burundi had not competed in the Summer Games due to ethnic conflicts and coups d’etat. Ironically, Burundi has earned an Olympic gold medal but has never won a regional title at the African Games.
Did you know – From the 2000s on, Burundi maintains close ties with a number of foreign governments: America, France, Germany, Belgium, South Africa, and the People’s Republic of China, among others.