The Leopards fought back from a goal down to secure second spot in Group D behind Gabon (who defeated Mauritania 4-2 in a concurrent match in Bloemfontein) thanks to a first-half brace from striker Makusu Mundele, who also missed a penalty kick.
DR Congo thought they had opened the scoring as early as the fifth minute, but defender Eric Nkulukuta had his goal ruled out for an infringement inside the Burundi penalty area.
Just a minute later the crossbar came to Burundi goalkeeper Arthur Arakaza’s rescue, with Jean Kasusula’s attempt direct from a free kick rattling the woodwork and rebounding back into play.
Those early threats spurred Burundi into action and they claimed the lead in the 15th minute through Selemani Ndikumana, who beat his marker to a fine through-ball from Fiston Razak Abdul and fired a shot into the back of the net.
Three minutes later DRC were handed a chance to bring themselves level from the penalty spot, but Makusu Mundele’s kick was well saved by Arakaza.
However, Mundele soon made amends, bringing the Leopards level on 25 minutes. He latched onto a hopeful long ball forward to catch the defence napping and coolly beat Arakaza to make it 1-1.
Thirteen minutes later the striker grabbed his second to put DRC ahead. The Burundi defence twice had a chance to clear a low cross from Patou Simbi, but they made a mess of their attempts and the ball fell kindly for Mundele, who steered home a shot from close range for a 2-1 lead.
The second half was a tenser affair, with far less flowing football. As a result, chances at either end of the field essentially dried up, leaving the game to be fought out in a congested midfield where neither side was really able to dominate.
DR Congo looked the likelier scorers, with Mundele heading wide of goal from a good opportunity in the 69th minute to miss out on a hat-trick, while a couple of corner kicks with just under a quarter hour to play provided some nerve-wracking moments for Burundi’s defence.
News of a Gabon comeback in the concurrent Group D match in Bloemfontein should have seen Burundi go up a gear or two, but the Swallows had nothing left in the tank and meekly accepted their elimination from the tournament.
Burundi (1) 1 (Selemani Ndikumana 15’)
DR Congo (2) 2 (Makusu Mundele 25’ 38’)
Burundi: Arthur Arakaza, Frederic Nsabiyumva, Hassan Hakizimana, Issa Hakiziman, Rashid Hererimana, Yussuf Ndikumana, Christophe Nduwarugira (Mossi Moussa 57’), Fiston Razak Abdul, Gael Duhayinavyi, Selemani Ndikumana, Claude Ndarusanza (Celestin Habonimana 67’)
DRC: Robert Kidiaba, Eric Nkulukuta, Jean Kasusula, Joel Kimwaki, Muselengue Ugenda, Patou Simbi, Chikito Mabidi, Firmin Mubele (Thierry Kasereka 72’), Guy Lusadisu (Reagan Pelembe 54’), Cedrick Mavuanga, Makusu Mundele