Burundi: EU slaps sanctions, Belgium suspends aid

General Leonard Ngendakumana, one of the masterminds of the May 13 attempted coup is one of the four Burundians sanctioned by the European Union (EU)

General Leonard Ngendakumana, one of the masterminds of the May 13 attempted coup is one of the four Burundians sanctioned by the European Union (EU)

The Council of the European Union announced Friday it was sanctioning four Burundian officials who have played a role in the electoral related six-month conflict and the intransigence that have prevented the country from achieving a political resolution to the turmoil.

Godefroid Bizimana, deputy director general of the National Police, Gervais Ndirakobuca aka Ndakugarika, head of cabinet, Mathias Joseph Niyonzima alias Kazungu, a senior officer in the intelligence services, and General Leonard Ngendakumana, former head of military operations in the presidency and one of the leaders of the May 13 foiled coup have been hit by EU travel ban and asset freeze.

The EU says the quartet played a prominent role in the violence, repression or incitement to violence, and blatant human rights violations against ant-third protestors.

It revealed the measures taken against the four figures are “part of the EU’s action in support of efforts by the international community, and particularly by the East African Community and the African Union, to achieve a lasting political solution through an inter-Burundian dialogue.”

The Burundian government has angrily dismissed the “misguided” sanctions maintaining the officials are innocent (not Gen. Ngendakumana).

Speaking to Reuters, Philippe Nzobonariba, Burundi Cabinet spokesman said “we are surprised that the sanctions have targeted security forces, who did all their best to prevent the worst, instead they should have targeted those who organized violent and bloody protests. It is incomprehensible to the government.”
General Ngendakumana is in exile and he has been on record claiming responsibility of the grenade attacks in Bujumbura.

In an interview with Kenya Television Network (KTN) in July, Gen. Ngendakumana said their disastrous failure in the May attempted coup had motivated them to resort to grenade attacks as a last ditch effort to force President Pierre Nkurunziza out of power. In the same interview he said his group will keep fighting until the president is overthrown.

EU is the first to unveil sanctions on members of the Burundian government and players in the conflict. In August, the United States also threatened to take action.

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said then that her country and the international community were considering a range of sanctions they might employ on all parties in the Burundi conflict that are committing gross human rights violations and politically motivated killings.

Power told the media in New York City, “the US and other member states are looking at measures that we can take, such as travel bans, visa bans and so forth against those responsible for gross violations of human rights or murderous attacks.”

Meanwhile, Belgium, Burundi’s former colonial power, has announced it is suspending some assistance to the government of Burundi in a protest to the president’s controversial third term.

In a statement issued on this Friday, Alexander De Croo, Belgian deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Cooperation stated his government is withholding aid to a series of development projects in Burundi, and that the European country was stop its cooperation with the Burundian Police effective immediately.

Belgium is also threatening to cut all the suspended assistance if the impending negotiations between the two nations fail.

The Belgian Minister of Development Cooperation regrets to have taken the decision, saying his country remains deeply involved in improving the conditions of Burundians and development of their country.

“But current circumstances push us to intervene. Political instability weighed heavily on the Burundian population,” he said, expressing hope to come up with positive results for the people of Burundi through dialogue.

Minister De Croo emphasized however that Belgium will maintain programs appearing to benefit Burundians directly.

In the run up to the just concluded controversial presidential poll, Belgium threatened to cut all aid to impoverished Central African nation if President Nkurunziza pressed ahead with his third term bid.
Current measures indicate Brussels has indeed followed through with action, albeit leniently given the fact that they had threatened to cut all aid.

Belgium is Burundi’s number one donor, in 2013, Burundi received approximately $50 million from its main development partner.

The US also has already cut funding to Burundi peacekeeping mission in Somalia under the African Union (AMISOM). The US Defence Department announced in May it was suspending military aid to Burundi until the country’s army had steered clear of ‘human rights violations’.