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30/07/2016

EU suspends Burundi government aid over violence

Global Europe

EU suspends Burundi government aid over violence

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza.

[AMISOMPublicInformation/Flickr]

The European Union, strife-torn Burundi’s biggest aid donor, on Monday suspended all direct funding to the government for failing to meet EU concerns over its human rights record.

“The situation in Burundi remains of serious concern for the EU… Today’s decision makes clear that for our relations to be fully resumed we expect a number of concrete measures to be carried out,” EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said in a statement.

The statement, agreed by the 28 EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, said that while financial support for the government was being cut, the bloc would continue its separate funding for civil society and humanitarian assistance.   EU aid programmes for Burundi over the period 2014-20 are worth some 430 million euros ($480 million) and any threat to them would be serious for a very poor country beset by growing violence.

EU in last ditch bid to avoid Burundi turmoil

The European Union will host Tuesday (8 December) a high-level, last-ditch meeting of Burundian leaders, the UN, the African Union and others, in a attempt to halt the slide into violence which many fear may descend into civil war.

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Burundi has been in turmoil since July when President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term which the opposition said was illegal and breached an accord ending a horrific 1993-2006 civil war which left 300,000 people dead.

The EU has held a series of talks with the government under the terms of the Cotonou agreement, which lays down strict rules for mutual cooperation including the promotion of human rights, and warned repeatedly that aid could be cut if there was no progress.
Mogherini said the government should now build on measures agreed with the African Union, the East African Community and the United Nations to establish a dialogue with the opposition and find “a durable political solution to the crisis”.

There have been hundreds of killings since Nkurunziza won the July poll, with security forces, rebels and the opposition all blaming each other for the bloodshed.

Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, added: “The EU is, and will remain, firmly committed to supporting the Burundian people in this crisis, which has already cost more than 400 lives, left thousands injured and forced over 240 000 people to take refuge in neighbouring countries.

“Meanwhile, EU funded projects which aim to ensure access to basic services for the population, but without channelling financial resources through accounts held by the Government of Burundi, are being prepared and the EU remains committed to providing emergency assistance”.

Background

Unrest erupted in Burundi end of April against a bid by president Pierre Nkurunziza to cling to power for a third term.

The president, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian, has been in power since 2005. Opposition figures and rights groups say his attempt to stay put goes against the constitution, as well as the peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.

>>Read: Tensions grow as Burundi leader clings to power

The violence has plunged the nation into its worst crisis since the end of the civil war that pitted rebels from the majority Hutu ethnic group against minority Tutsis, who once led the army. The military is now a mixed force.

The police crackdown on protests has provoked Western rebukes of a nation which relies on aid to meet half its budget. The European Union and Belgium individually halted aid earmarked for supporting elections, saying that the conditions were not right for a fair vote.

European states are the biggest contributors to the budget, while the United States provides support to the army.

Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, added: "The EU is, and will remain, firmly committed to supporting the Burundian people in this crisis, which has already cost more than 400 lives, left thousands injured and forced over 240 000 people to take refuge in neighbouring countries.

"Meanwhile, EU funded projects which aim to ensure access to basic services for the population, but without channelling financial resources through accounts held by the Government of Burundi, are being prepared and the EU remains committed to providing emergency assistance".

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