EU suspends aid to Burundi's government

EU withholds direct financial support to Bujumbura after concluding that authorities have not done enough to end conflict in Burundi

The EU has suspended direct financial support for Burundi after concluding that the authorities in the central African nation had not done enough to find a political solution to a conflict that has so far cost more than 400 lives.

After holding talks with Burundi, the European council said in a statement that the commitments proposed by Bujumbura were insufficient to address EU concerns.

“The EU has suspended direct financial support to the Burundian administration, including budget support, but is fully maintaining both its financial support to the population and its humanitarian assistance,” the statement said. The council said it had set out “specific measures” to be taken if Burundi wanted full cooperation to be resumed.

Between 2014-20, EU aid to Burundi is estimated at €432m (£338m), mainly for projects in energy, rural development, public finances, health and justice reform.

Burundi – one of the world’s poorest and hungriest countries – has been in turmoil since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his ultimately successful bid for a third term in office, prompting protests and a failed military coup. Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 250,000 Burundians have fled to neighbouring countries.

Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, said the situation was a serious concern despite recent “glimpses of hope”.

“The action we are seeking is achievable with will and determination: it builds on measures and processes already set in motion by the African Union, the East African Community and the United Nations.

“In particular, we believe it can support the inter-Burundian dialogue mediated by the East African Community which is key to finding a durable political solution to the crisis,” she said.

The government in Bujumbura said the EU’s decision would not paralyse the administration. “The EU aid cut doesn’t mean the government will stop functioning. There is a way of living otherwise; the government will continue running,” foreign minister Alain Nyamitwe told Reuters.

The EU funds about half the annual budget of Burundi and has already imposed sanctions on officials close to the president.

Neven Mimica, the EU commissioner for international cooperation and development, said Europe remained committed to providing emergency assistance to the people of Burundi and was preparing projects to ensure basic services for the population, but without channelling resources through the government.

The EU has held talks with Burundi’s government under the terms of the Cotonou agreement, which lays down strict rules for mutual cooperation including the promotion of human rights.

Burundians attend a rally addressed by Tanzania’s prime minister, Kassim Majaliwa, at Nduta refugee camp in Kigoma, Tanzania.
Burundians attend a rally addressed by Tanzania’s prime minister, Kassim Majaliwa, at Nduta refugee camp in Kigoma, Tanzania. Photograph: AP

Last month, the UN’s children agency Unicef warned that political violence, malnutrition and increasing risks from malaria and cholera had pushed Burundi to the brink of a major crisis.

Unicef said violence had made a parlous food security situation even worse, and also cited previous withdrawals of donor funding.

“Before the crisis, the global hunger index had already rated Burundi as the hungriest country in the world,” said Bo Viktor Nylund, Unicef’s representative in Burundi. “What we [have seen] in the health arena – which is 58% reliant on external donors – is that there are cracks in the system, beginning with essential drugs.”

In January, the UN high commissioner for human rights warned that a complete breakdown of law and order was just around the corner, noting that his office was examining allegations of gang-rapes, enforced disappearances and the digging of mass graves linked to burst of fighting and killing in December in the capital.

Staff and agencies

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