EU may restrict Burundi ties over rights concerns

President Pierre Nkurunziza inspecting Burundian troops. [AMISOMPublicInformation/Flickr]

The EU said it could restrict its ties with Burundi to humanitarian aid after talks which finished late on Tuesday failed to resolve its concerns over human rights in the restive central African country.

A statement issued after lengthy talks in Brussels said the EU, the country’s top donor, took note of Burundi’s explanations but that these did not go far enough to remedy the problems.

“The consultations are now closed and appropriate measures will be put up for decision,” the statement said.

“In the meantime, provisional measures could be taken regarding current cooperation, limiting new activities to humanitarian actions directly benefiting the population,” it said.

The EU added that it would “take positively” the government agreeing to open a dialogue with the opposition.

Tuesday’s talks were held under provisions in the Cotonou agreement, the framework for the 28-nation EU’s economic and development ties with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, which lays down strict rules for mutual cooperation including the promotion of human rights.

>>Read: EU in last ditch bid to avoid Burundi turmoil

Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term earlier this year which the opposition said was illegal and breached an accord ending a horrific civil war which left 300,000 dead.

There have been increasingly violent clashes between loyalists and the opposition, sparking a warning Tuesday from the United Nations that the country risked sinking into genocidal violence.

Last month Belgium, the former colonial power, told its nationals to leave and the EU evacuated staff families after the UN warned Burundi was on the brink of “mass violence”.

EU aid programmes for Burundi over 2014-20 are worth some 430 million euros.

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.

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