Islam in Burundi

Islam is a minority religion in Burundi. According to a 2010 United States Department of State estimate, between 2–5 percent of the national population identifies as Muslim.[1]


Islam first arrived in Burundi from East African coast as part of the Arab slave trade in the late 19th century.[2] Resistance by the Kingdom of Burundi, led by mwami (king) Mwezi IV Gisabo, succeeded in preventing the country from being occupied.[2] The Arabs did, however, establish settlements at Ujiji and Uvira close to the country's current borders.[2] The number of Muslims is Burundi increased under German colonial rule (1894–1916) and the German administration favoured the use of Kiswahili. By the outbreak of World War I, Bujumbura (Usumbura) was a majority Muslim city.[2] The religion declined under Belgian colonial rule (1916–62) as a result of the spread of Catholicism and the migration of non-Muslim Burundians to the cities.[2]

Today the Muslim population is strongly urbanised and focused in the cities of Bujumbura (especially the districts of Buyenzi and Bwiza), Gitega, Rumonge, Nyanza, Muyinga, and Makamba. The great majority are Sunni while a small minority are Shia and Ibadi.[1][2] Most are Swahili speakers although they may speak other national languages.[2] A significant proportion of the Muslim community are recent immigrants to the country from West Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Middle East, and Pakistan.[2] Native Burundian Muslims belong to both of the country's ethnic groups (Hutu and Tutsi) and successfully managed to avoid become involved in the Burundian genocides and ethnic violence after independence.[2]

The Republic of Burundi is officially secular but several Muslim festivals, including Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, are celebrated as national holidays alongside Christian observances.[1]

Despite being only a small proportion of the national population, Muslims are represented in senior positions in Burundian politics and society, especially since the end of the Burundian Civil War.[3]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Burundi". International Religious Freedom Report 2010. United States Department of State. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Luffin 1999.
  3. "Despite small numbers, Burundi Muslims still influential". World Bulletin. 26 May 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2016.


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