The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burundi before, during, and after nationwide elections scheduled from May to September 2010. This notice replaces the Travel Warning for Burundi, dated July 22, 2009, to provide information regarding travel to and within Burundi during the election period, 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. The rebels have since demobilized and were transitioned into an officially-recognized political party known only as the FNL. In the past, Burundi has experienced violence in Bujumbura and other areas of the country throughout campaign seasons, elections, and in the weeks following the announcements of election results.
Between May and September, Burundi will conduct five, possibly six, nationwide elections. These include: May 21 - Communal Councils; June 28 - President, with a possible runoff election three weeks afterward; July 23 - National Assembly Deputies; July 28 - Senate; and September 7 - local 'colline' councils. As the political situation intensifies, the U.S. Embassy expects sporadic incidents of violence to occur. The U.S. Embassy has requested curtailment of official U.S. government travelers on temporary duty (TDY) to Burundi from May 1 to September 15, 2010, while Burundi is conducting elections. Although U.S. citizens are unlikely to be targeted, the possibility of being caught in violence remains. The U.S. Embassy encourages all U.S.citizens living and working in Burundi to exercise prudence; citizens considering travel to Burundi should avoid arriving before mid-September 2010.
U.S. citizens should be aware that even peaceful gatherings and demonstrations can turn violent. U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Burundi during this period 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 are strongly advised to avoid polling places on election days. All election days are recognized national holidays; U.S. citizens are encouraged to stay home. 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.
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. U.S. Government personnel are prohibited 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.
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. The RSO may also place further restrictions on employee movement due to changing security conditions during the electoral period.
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 register at the State Department's travel registration web site. By registering, 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 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Fridays. The Embassy Consular section can be reached by telephone, including 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 the Embassy'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).