The Republic of Burundi

Traditional activities, along with modern sports form an integral part of day-to-day life in Burundi. Soccer is the national sport of the country, which has taken part in a great number of competitions. This May, the Lydia Ludic Burundi Academic FC, one big soccer club and winner of the 2012 Burundi Cup, managed to reach the 8th finals of the 2013 CAF Confederation Cup. The national team is Intamba mu Rugamba (les Hirondelles). Soccer´s popularity is closely followed by basketball and athleticism. Judo also has clubs throughout the country and rugby is slowly gaining popularity along with other modern sports.

Recently, a new star has been rising in Burundi, raising genuine popular enthusiasm. Francine Niyonsaba is a track and field athlete, specialized in the 800m. She won in the 2012 African Championship in Athletics in Benin the 800m. Following this success, she participated in the London Olympic Games; and though injured at the thigh, she managed to reach the final. This year in 2013 she is back on the track and ended 1st again in the Diamond League in Shanghai, making the whole nation proud. The president believes that she may be a source for economic development citing examples from other nations.

A lot of well-known athletes’ names come up when talking about Burundi with inter alia Mohammed Tchité, Malik Jabir, Odette Ntahonvukiye, etc. But next to them, on an administrative level, is Lydia Nsekera- the first woman elected to Fifa’s Powerful executive committee for a four-year term. Her fresh election is a new step for African, Burundese and women sport.

Since 1996, Burundi has sent athletes to every summer Olympic Games and the athlete Vénuste Niyongabo obtained the gold medal for the men’s 5000 metres at the Atlanta Games. In recent years, the government frequently sent athletes from all kind of sports to as many International, African and national competitions as possible. For instance in May 2013, two Burundians won the gold and silver medal of the African Wrestling Championship in Tchad.

Sport definitively has a large part to play in Burundi’s society. When citing famous people in Burundi, one will certainly cite a sportsman. They are closely followed by regional press. The government integrates sport as part of its internal and external policy. The minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, Jean-Jacques Nyenimigabo, strongly promotes sport to encourage national reconciliation and to ease tensions. As the aftermath of the genocides and civil wars are still to be felt, sport is deemed to play a key role in constructing a stable and lasting peace, especially amongst the youth. In addition, Burundian teams participate in many championships, allowing the country to have a name next to bigger nations. Overall, sport is their main nation-branding and peace process.

Although the infrastructure to develop sport is still being built up, the government is making concrete efforts to increase awareness of the importance of sports. Sports which do not require a lot of facilities are promoted and famous sportsmen provide good examples and role models for the population. The capital has a football and a track and field venue.

On a more traditional note, youth enjoy playing gusimba ikibariko which involves jumping with a ball and catching stones before they fall. Girls play Horo which is also a ball game. Traditional dances are still widely practiced and strongly encouraged by the minister.