National Defence Force
Force de Défense Nationale du Burundi
Service branchesGround Force
Naval Force
Air Force
Commander-in-chiefÉvariste Ndayishimiye
Minister of National Defense & War VeteransIr Alain Tribert Mutabazi
Chief of the General StaffGeneral Prime Niyongabo
Active personnel20,000 Army personnel
30,000 paramilitary
Budget$US 64 million (2011)
Percent of GDP3.7% (2011)
Related articles
RanksMilitary ranks of Burundi

The Burundi National Defence Force (French: Force de Défense Nationale Burundaise, or FDNB) is the state military organisation responsible for the defence of Burundi.

A general staff (État-Major Général) commands the armed forces, consisting of a joint staff (État-Major inter-armes); a training staff (État-Major de la Formation), and a logistics staff (État-Major de la Logistique). Naval and aviation commands exist, as well as specialised units.[1]


Independence and early history (1962–1993)

Under Belgian colonial rule, the mandatory status of Ruanda-Urundi established limits on the recruitment of Barundi for military service. Instead, Ruanda-Urundi was garrisoned by a small unit of the Force Publique recruited in the Belgian Congo which combined its military role with the role of gendarmerie. Its members were popularly known as Bamina in Burundi, after the large military base at Kamina in the Congo.[2] Amid the Congo's independence, the Belgian colonial administration formed the Burundian National Guard (Garde Nationale Burundaise) in 1960. It consisted of 650 men, recruited equally from the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups (though the Tutsi mostly consisted of those from the Hima subgroup). When Burundi became independent in 1962 the force was renamed the Burundian National Army (Armée Nationale Burundaise) and assumed a purely military function.[3] The gendarmarie function was allocated to a civilian authority called the National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie nationale) after independence in 1962,[citation needed] though this became part of the army on 7 March 1967.[4]

Burundian soldiers (wearing M1 helmets) at the coronation ceremony of King Ntare V, 1 September 1966

Burundi became independent on 1 July 1962 with the army organised into eight platoons.[5] A coup attempt in October 1965 led by the Hutu-dominated police was carried out but failed. The Tutsi dominated army, then led by Tutsi officer Captain Michel Micombero[6] purged Hutu from their ranks and carried out reprisal attacks which ultimately claimed the lives of up to 5,000 people in a predecessor to Burundian genocides.[7] Micombero then became Prime Minister.

King Mwambutsa IV, who had fled the country during the October 1965 coup attempt, was deposed by a coup in July 1966 and his teenage son, Crown Prince Charles Ndizeye, claimed the throne as King Ntare V. Later that same year, Prime Minister, then-Colonel, Michel Micombero, carried out another coup in November 1966, this time deposing Ntare, abolishing the monarchy and declaring the nation a republic. His one-party government was effectively a military dictatorship.[8] As president, Micombero became an advocate of African socialism and received support from China. He imposed a staunch regime of law and order and sharply repressed Hutu militarism. After Micombero's coup d’etat which deposed the monarchy, he became the first general in Burundian history. He was also commissioned by the National Council of the Revolution (French: Conseil National de la Révolution (CNR)), and made a Lieutenant Général. In his turn, Micombero raised Thomas Ndabemeye to the grade of Major General. They were the sole generals of the First Republic.

In 1972 the Tutsi-dominated Burundi Army and government carried out a series of mass killings, the Ikiza, often characterised as a genocide, primarily against educated and elite Hutus who lived in the country. Conservative estimates place the death toll of the event between 100,000 and 150,000 killed, while some estimates of the death toll go as high as 300,000.[citation needed] This included a purge of all Hutus and some politically unfavorable Tutsis from the military, shrinking it to about 2,300 members[9] On 30 December 1974 a naval division was created.[10]

In 1981–82 the IISS estimated that the Burundian armed forces were 6,000 strong, with 2 infantry battalions, 1 airborne battalion, 1 commando battalion, and an armoured car company.[11] The same estimate was repeated in the 1988–89 edition except that the strength figure had been dropped to 5,500.

The Civil War and aftermath

In 1993, Hutu President Melchior Ndadaye was elected in the 1 June presidential election and was sworn in on 10 July.

On 21 October, a coup was attempted by a Tutsi–dominated National Defence Force faction, led by Chief of Staff Lt. Col. Jean Bikomagu, ex-President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, and former interior minister François Ngeze.[12][13] The coup attempt resulted in the assassination of Ndadaye and numerous other casualties.[13][14] Following the coup, the Committee of Public Salvation (CSP) was created as the ruling junta, and François Ngeze (a prominent Hutu member of UPRONA) was installed as the new president. Ngeze himself comdemned the assassination of Ndadaye.[15] Faced with widespread condemnation, the Army leaders urged civilian politicians to resume control. Consequently, Prime Minister Sylvie Kinigi (who took refuge in the French embassy with other senior government figures) was installed as Acting President on 27 October.

The 1996 UN inquiry names three units - para 122-3 indicates that at the time of the October coup, the 2e Commando were the presidential guard and the 1er Parachutiste and 11e Blinde were the units involved in the coup. (Para 115 notes that some officers of the 2e Commando were previously involved in an attempted coup in July, before Ndadaye was sworn in, but presumably by October the unit was thought to be loyal). In addition, U.S. Ambassador Bob Krueger mentions members of the 1st Parachute Battalion being active during the coup in his book.[16]

The coup attempted sparked the Burundian Civil War, which lasted from 1993 to 2005, killing an estimated 300,000 people. The Arusha Accords[17] ended 12 years of war and stopped decades of ethnic killings. The 2005 constitution provided guaranteed representation for both Hutu and Tutsi, and 2005 parliamentary elections that led to Pierre Nkurunziza, from the Hutu FDD, becoming president.

According to a 2004 report by Child Soldiers International, Burundi's military used conscripted child soldiers. Children in military service were subject to military courts which fell short of international law standards.[18]

The armed forces have deployed significant numbers of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia since c. 2007. On February 1, 2007 Burundi committed to the mission, pledging up to 1,000 troops.[19] By March 27, it was confirmed that 1700 Burundian troops would be sent to Somalia.[20] In 2011 the IISS estimated that three Burundian battalions were deployed there. The army's forces in 2011 included, according to IISS estimates, 2 light armoured battalions (squadrons), seven infantry battalions and independent companies; and artillery, engineer, and air defence battalions (SA-7 'Grail' man-portable SAMs and 14.5mm, 23mm and 37mm guns were reported). Separately reported were the 22nd commando battalion (Gitega) and 124th commando battalion Bujumbura). Despite the elapse of another six years, the 2017 listing from the Military Balance was essentially unchanged except for an increase in size to some 30,000 and the addition of ten reserve infantry battalions.

In the wake of the Burundian unrest, personnel faced a choice between supporting President Pierre Nkurunziza, with whom some fought when he was a military commander, or opposing him. Interviewed by Reuters on May 14, 2015, an Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft said a coup then reported in progress by Major General Godefroid Niyombare, former director of the intelligence service, "starkly highlight[ed] Nkurunziza’s lack of unified support among his military chiefs." "Even if Niyombare’s attempt fails, Nkurunziza’s political credibility may be damaged irreparably."[21]

The 121e Régiment de Parachutistes were mentioned in French news articles as one of the units that supported the attempted coup in 2015.

In the aftermath of the coup and the later disputed election, armed forces chief of staff Major General Prime Niyongabo survived an assassination attempt on September 11, 2015.[22]

In 2015/16, Laurent Touchard wrote that the BNDF included ten two-battalion infantry brigades. (Touchard 2016)


In 2011 the IISS estimated that three Burundian battalions were deployed in Somalia. The army's forces in 2011 included, according to IISS estimates, 2 light armoured battalions (squadrons), seven infantry battalions and independent companies; and artillery, engineer, and air defence battalions (SA-7 'Grail' man-portable SAMs and 14.5mm, 23mm and 37mm guns were reported).[23]

Separately reported were the 22nd commando battalion (Gitega) and 124th commando battalion Bujumbura).

Despite the elapse of another six years, the 2017 listing from the Military Balance was essentially unchanged except for an increase in size to some 30,000 and the addition of ten reserve infantry battalions.[24]


Burundi troops of the Central African Multinational Force in the Central African Republic.

Small arms

Name Image Caliber Type Origin Notes
Machine guns
DShK[25] 12.7×108mm Heavy machine gun  Soviet Union In service
RPK[26] 7.62×39mm Squad automatic weapon  Soviet Union In service
Grenade launchers
RPG-7[27] 40mm Rocket-propelled grenade  Soviet Union In service
M20 Super bazooka[28] 60mm Rocket-propelled grenade  United States In service

Anti-tank weapons

Name Image Type Origin Caliber Notes
RL-83 Blindicide[28] Anti-tank rocket launcher  Belgium 83mm In service
Type 52[29] Recoilless rifle  United States
75mm In service
MILAN[28] Anti-tank missile  France
 West Germany
In service

Scout cars

Name Image Type Origin Quantity Notes
BRDM-2 Amphibious armored scout car  Soviet Union 30 In service

Armored personnel carriers

Name Image Type Origin Quantity Notes
BTR-40 Armored personnel carrier  Soviet Union 29[30] In service
BTR-80 Armored personnel carrier  Soviet Union 10[30] In service
Walid Armored personnel carrier  Egypt 6[30] In service
WZ-551 Armored personnel carrier  China 15[30] In service
Panhard M3 Armored personnel carrier  France 9[30] In service


Name Image Type Origin Quantity Notes
Panhard AML Armored car  France 18[30] In service
  • 12 AML-90
  • 06 AML-60
Shorland S52 Armored car  United Kingdom 7[30] In service

Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected

Name Image Type Origin Quantity Notes
RG-31 Nyala MRAP  South Africa 12[30] In service
RG-33L MRAP  South Africa 10[30] In service
Casspir MRAP  South Africa 10[30] In service
Cougar MRAP  United States 15[30] In service


Name Image Type Origin Quantity Status
BM-37 Mortar  Soviet Union 15[30] In service
MO-120-RT61 Mortar  France 75[30] In service
Rocket artillery
BM-21 Grad Multiple rocket launcher  Soviet Union 12[30] In service
Field artillery
D-30 Howitzer  Soviet Union 18[30] In service

Air defence systems

Name Image Type Origin Quantity Status
Type 55 Anti-aircraft gun  Soviet Union
135+[30] In service
ZU-23-2 Autocannon  Soviet Union In service
ZPU-4 SPAAG  Soviet Union 15[30] In service
9K32 Strela-2 MANPADS  Soviet Union Unknown[30] In service

Aircraft inventory

The Burundi Army's air unit operates 10 aircraft, including one combat aircraft and six helicopters, of which two are non-operational as of 2012.[28]

Image Aircraft Type Versions In service Notes
Aérospatiale Alouette III Utility helicopter 3[28]
Aérospatiale SA 342 Gazelle Utility helicopter SA 342L 2[28]
Mil Mi-8 Transport helicopter 2[28]
Mil Mi-24 Hind Attack helicopter Hind-E 2[28]
SIAI-Marchetti SF 260 Trainer aircraft SF-260P 1[28]


  1. ^ "LOI N° 1/019 DU 31 DECEMBRE 2004 Portant Creation, Organisation, MISSIONS, COMPOSITION ET FONCTIONNEMENT DE LA FORCE DE DEFENSE NATIONALE" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-10-09. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  2. ^ Bat, Jean-Pierre (19 June 2006). "La police nationale du Burundi : quelle force pour quel ordre ?". Libération—Africa4. Paris, France. Libération. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  3. ^ Daley 2008, p. 59.
  4. ^ Weinstein 1976, p. 186.
  5. ^ "King Attends Ceremony". The New York Times. Associated Press. 2 July 1962. p. 8.
  6. ^ "Timeline: Burundi". BBC News. 25 February 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  7. ^ "MODERN CONFLICTS: CONFLICT PROFILE : Burundi (1993-2006)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-10-09. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  8. ^ Background Note: Burundi. United States Department of State. February 2008. Retrieved on 28 June 2008.
  9. ^ Weinstein 1976, p. 187.
  10. ^ Weinstein 1976, p. 61.
  11. ^ IISS Military Balance 1988-89
  12. ^ Lansford 2017, p. 220.
  13. ^ a b "Leader of Burundi Reportedly Killed in a Coup by an Ethnic Rival". The New York Times. 22 October 1993. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  14. ^ "President of Burundi Was Killed In Coup, Leaders of the Army Say". The New York Times. 25 October 1993. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Au coin du feu avec François Ngeze – IWACU". Retrieved 2021-04-05.
  16. ^ From Bloodshed to Hope in Burundi: Our Embassy Years During Genocide (pp 7, 20).
  17. ^ Institute for Security Studies, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-05-29.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (Protocol II, Chapter 1.)
  18. ^ Child Soldiers International, "2004 Africa: Regional overview" Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Burundi joins Somalia peace force". BBC. 2007-02-01. Archived from the original on 10 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-09.
  20. ^ "Burundi troops ready to join Somalia peacekeepers". Reuters. 2007-03-27. Archived from the original on 1 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-02.
  21. ^ "Army rifts could push Burundi back to conflict after coup bid". May 14, 2015.
  22. ^ "6 killed as Burundi army chief targeted in attempted slaying - US News". Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2017-09-05.
  23. ^ IISS Military Balance 2011, 413, 414.
  24. ^ IISS Military Balance 2017, p.500.
  25. ^ Thierry Vircoulon (2014-10-02). "Insights from the Burundian Crisis (I): An Army Divided and Losing its Way". International Crisis Group. Archived from the original on 2017-05-21. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  26. ^ "Grenade attack kills three Burundi ruling party members". Africa News. Reuters. 2017-05-18. Archived from the original on 2017-07-05. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
  27. ^ " : Galleries". Archived from the original on 14 April 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i IISS (2012), p. 425.
  29. ^ Gander, Terry J.; Cutshaw, Charles Q., eds. (2001). Jane's Infantry Weapons 2001/2002 (27th ed.). Coulsdon: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 9780710623171.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r International Institute for Strategic Studies (2021). The Military Balance. p. 453. ISBN 9781032012278.