EU calls in Burundi for rights talks

Albinos in Burundi - hunted for body parts

Albinos in Burundi - hunted for body parts. [International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent/Flickr]

The EU on Monday (26 October) called in Burundi for “consultations” on rights violations in the impoverished central African country, a step that could lead to a suspension of aid.

The European Union is a major aid donor to the country which has been shaken by violence linked to President Pierre Nkurunziza successful but contested bid for a third term in office.

“The objective of the talks is to find a solution acceptable to all the parties and identify the measures to take to redress non-respect of the accord,” a statement said, citing the provisions of the Cotonou agreement.

The Cotonou agreement is the framework for the 28-nation EU’s economic and development ties with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

EU aid promises for 2014-20 amount to €432 million, in part to help the country recover from a horrific civil war which left at least 300,000 dead.

Burundi has been in turmoil since April when Nkurunziza opted to stand for office again, defying the opposition which said this breached the peace accord that ended the conflict.

The UNHCR warned last week of a “rapidly worsening” situation, with nearly 200 people killed since late April. Tens of thousands of people have fled.

EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said the situation in Burundi “remains very worrying.” She added that the consultations would contribute to “launch an inter-Burundian dialogue to find a consensual solution to the crisis in the country.

A letter addressed to president Nkurunziza and approved by EU development ministers Monday in Luxembourg, said the bloc hoped the consultations would lead to “a mutually acceptable solution.”

“The consultations will allow Burundi to present the government’s programme, notably in so far as it concerns democratic principles, human rights and governance,” a copy of the letter, seen by AFP, said.

Nkurunziza has 30 days to reply under ACP rules.

Unrest erupted in Burundi at the 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.

The European Union warned it was ready to impose sanctions on Burundians failing to help end the crisis. On 1 October, the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on four government officials whose activities were considered as "undermining democracy or obstructing efforts to achieve a political solution to the current crisis".

>>Read: Europe readying sanctions against top Burundi officials

Subscribe to our newsletters