H.E. Pierre Nkurunziza, elected President of the Republic of Burundi in 2005 and re-elected in 2010, became President at a time when Burundi was devastated after more than a decade of civil war and dictatorship. In his inauguration speech, President Nkurunziza declared his ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption and related offences, and pledged to build villages for Burundians living in rural areas.
Through his strong commitment to restoring peace and economic prosperity, the President has focussed his administration on reconstruction and reconciliation, economic recovery and political stability.
H.E. Pierre Nkurunziza was born in Ngozi province in northern Burundi in 1964. After completing his university education with distinction, the future President served as a secondary-school teacher and then as Assistant Lecturer at the University of Burundi from 1992 to 1994. He then joined the CNDD-FDD rebel group and was elected chairman in 2001 and in 2004. He served as Minister of Good Governance and State Inspector General in Burundi’s transitional government in 2003, and led the CNDD-FDD delegation during the peace negotiations which culminated in a global ceasefi re and a power-sharing agreement that year.
Known as a true man of the people, President Nkurunziza is dedicated to poverty reduction and has launched a number of innovative social programmes, including free education for primary school children and free maternity and paediatric healthcare services. The President also supports several sports and environmental projects.
He has won many international awards for his enlightened leadership, including the ‘Prize on Peace’ from the UN Commission on Peace Consolidation; the ‘Model Leader for a New Africa’ award from the US-based African Forum on Religion and Government; the ‘Rising Star of Africa’ award from India-based Unity International; and an award from Monaco-based Peace and Sports International for successfully employing sports as a tool for reconciliation, among many other accolades. President Nkurunziza was elected Chairman of the East African Community in November 2010, a clear sign of confidence in his leadership at the regional level.
President Nkurunziza discusses his country’s recent accomplishments and future goals.
European Times: What would you most like the international community to know about Burundi?
Pierre Nkurunziza: My most important message is that while Burundi had huge problems in the past, those difficult days are over. Burundi is now a country at peace, offering the security and stability which are the necessary foundations for economic development. International investors are looking for peace and stability in countries they target, and now Burundi can offer these. In addition, Burundi has demonstrated its commitment to peace through making major contributions to peace-keeping missions throughout Africa, particularly in Somalia, Sudan and Ivory Coast, and has pledged to contribute troops for Mali.
European Times: During your visit to UNESCO headquarters in Paris in March this year, UNESCO’s Director-General commended you for your commitment to peace and the fight against poverty as well as your support for education. What are some of your main goals for Burundi in the coming years?
Pierre Nkurunziza: In addition to supporting Burundi’s economic and social development as well as improved quality of life for our people, I would like to see our country play a very productive role in the regional, African and international community. One example is our partnership with UNESCO in our Vision 2025 programme to fight poverty and foster economic growth. We want to share our progress with our neighbours and to promote peace throughout the region. We are committed to pursuing economic growth while also protecting Burundi’s natural and cultural heritage. For example, we hope to work with UNESCO to include ‘Drums of Burundi’ on the UNESCO ‘Intangible Heritage’ list. Other projects we want to launch include the Virtual Library and an Institute of Sports and Physical Education, which we intend to be a regional reference centre for sport. We also hope that the House for a Culture of Peace initiative in Burundi, which embodies the priority accorded to Africa by UNESCO, will play a central role across the region.
European Times: What are some of the opportunities Burundi offers to international investors?
Pierre Nkurunziza: Burundi is now part of the East-African Community, a leading motor for economic integration in Africa, and this means investors can access fast-growing regional markets from here in Burundi. Our country has many high-potential opportunities in a wide range of sectors, including agriculture – which is the backbone of our economy – as well as mining, tourism, communications and telecommunication technologies, and last but not least, the energy sector. There are plenty of reasons for investors to come to Burundi. We have also improved our programmes to fight against poverty, our business code and the quality of our business environment. We are committed to economic development and have launched our ambitious Burundi 2025 economic growth strategy. We welcome international investors and we are ready to offer them all the support they need to make their businesses a success.