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.
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”.