The light background surrounding the shield is the map of Burundi. Its shape itself is shield-like. Burundi lies immediately south of, and borders, Rwanda. Within the map is the emblem, the Coat of Arms, of Burundi. The Coat of Arms was adopted in 1966, shortly following independence. It is a shield and banner, backed by three traditional African spears. The shield presents the face of the lion. The banner presents the Motto of the Nation.
From the Constitution of Burundi:
Motto of Burundi is: Unity, Work, Progress. The emblem of the Republic is a shield charged with the lion head and three spears, the whole being surrounded by the national motto.
The three word motto is presented in French and Kirundi; the French words readily discernible to English speaking peoples, but, perhaps, with unanticipated irony. The middle word of the motto, travail, in the French, is the word common for work in English; that is “labor” in the unadorned common sense. Whereas, travail to English speaking minds is freighted with tones of suffering and even sorrow, and is sometimes used in to describe the work of a woman bringing a child to birth. I am shaking my head slowly with sadness and care as I write this, it feeling so apropos to poor Burundi.