The small African nation of Burundi will be getting a new capital city. According to a tweet from the President’s spokesperson, Jean-Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, the capital of Burundi will move from Bujumbura to Gitega, keeping with a promise the President made over a decade ago.
Bujumbura, which sits on the north-eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, will continue to function as the country’s economic and commercial center, while the much smaller and centrally located Gitega will serve as the new political capital.
The decision to move the capital must still be approved by Parliament, an event which is likely since the Parliament of Burundi is dominated by the ruling party. Spokesperson Ndenzako added that “Cabinet meetings will henceforth be held in Gitega, where five ministries will also be established from the start of 2019.”
President Pierre Nkurunziza
Though Gitega’s population is only around 30,000, compared to Bujumbura’s 1.2 million, President Pierre Nkurunziza stated back in 2007 that he sought a more central position for Burundi’s capital.
President Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and the country’s first post-civil war president, was elected in 2005, and since then, has worked to consolidate his power. After announcing he would run for a third-term in 2015, Burundi fell into political crisis. Violence erupted in the aftermath, costing at least 1,200 lives with more than 400,000 people displaced between April 2015 and May 2017, according to the International Criminal Court.
In 2018, voters supported a constitutional referendum that could see Nkurunziza rule till 2034. The ruling party has even given him the title of “eternal supreme guide”. Nkurunziza’s power seize has led to a growth in opposition groups, who have been critical of the nation’s violence, economic woes, and corrupt election practices.
Burundi has a population of around 11 million people, and is among the poorest nations in the world.
Controversy Around the New Capital of Burundi
While the decision to move the capital of Burundi to Gitega will likely happen, it is not without controversy. Gitega was once the capital of the Burundian monarchy, and the opposition sees the capital move as a symbolic restoration.
Conversely, many also feel the decision to move Burundi’s capital is largely due to the fact that Bujumbura is increasingly becoming an opposition stronghold. It is a city which President Nkurunziza spends less and less time in.
Some opponents of the move simply feel Gitega is not ready to hold the title of capital of Burundi, and all that entails, citing a lack of offices, hotels, and other major buildings. They question the timing of the move, considering the ongoing economic crisis and the financial expenses associated with establishing a new capital essentially from the ground up.
Regardless of what others feel, however, change does seem to be coming. And it looks like the new capital of Burundi will be Gitega.
Update: The parliament of Burundi voted to approve this capital change in January of 2019. Since then, other sites, like the CIA World Factbook, have updated to reflect this change. Gitega is now considered the capital of Burundi on Sporcle.
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