Burundi takes aim at EU over aid cuts

 Philippe Nzobonariba. Spokesperson of the Burundian Government

Philippe Nzobonariba. Spokesperson of the Burundian Government

The Burundian government has criticized the European Union for suspending aid to the troubled East African state, warning that such a decision might result into an upsurge in instabilities caused by terrorists and criminals.

In a press statement issued Wednesday, Philip Nzobonariba, Cabinet Secretary and government spokesman, said the European Union ignored all achievements made by the government to stabilize the country.

“By taking such a conclusion, the European Union did not take into consideration the significant achievements, efforts and progress made in restoring security in the country despite the challenges posed by terrorist groups that have chosen civilians and security forces as targets for their attacks”, said Mr. Nzobonariba.

The European Union announced on Monday that it had suspended its direct financial support, including budget support to Burundi, after it failed to show concrete commitments to end the political crisis that has left hundreds of people dead and created a humanitarian catastrophe in the region. “The situation in Burundi remains of serious concern for the EU, though we have seen recently some glimpses of hope,” Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Police said in a statement.

But Philip Nzobonariba said the Burundian government has put in place initiatives to restore stability , citing the inter-Burundian dialogue , the release of 2000 political prisoners, the cancellation of arrest warrants against some figures allegedly behind last year’s coup attempt, the release of several detainees accused of insurgency as well as the reopening of some private radio stations.

“Regardless of the European Union’s decision, the Burundian government will continue its mission of addressing political and security issues in the interest of the people of Burundi, taking into account national sovereignty, territorial integrity and good relations with its partners. no decision or proposal challenging these sacred principles can receive the endorsement of the Government of Burundi,” he said.

Meanwhile, ordinary Burundians have expressed mixed reactions over the EU decision, with some saying that it will mainly affect them by bringing about inflationary pressures. Some are urging the European Union to reverse the measure while others blame the government for the punitive move.

“This is really an awful decision taken by the European Union, as we know it’s we, small people, who are going to suffer from that,” said Liban Havyarimana, a resident of Bujumbura.

Another resident of the Burundian capital Joseph Nsengiyumva echoed that similar sentiment saying “for sure, the Burundian government will try to get money by all means: taxes and duties will drastically increase, the country will fall into severe inflation and Burundian citizens will continue to sink into poverty.”

Since the breakout of the current political crisis in April 2015, the rift between Burundi and the international community has been growing wider and wider, with Burundi accusing foreign countries of meddling in their internal politics to destabilize the country.

A series of sanctions and aid cuts have been announced in a bid to push for an inclusive dialogue to end the turmoil, efforts to bring warrying sides to the negotiating table have been futile, with the Bujumbura government insisting that it will not talk to the May 13, 2015 “coup plotters.”

The EU contribution under the 11th European Development Fund (2014-2020) amounts to € 432 million;  € 80 million for sustainable Rural Development for Nutrition, € 87 million for health care sector, € 143 million Euros to support the contract for the state consolidation, € 105 million for sustainable Energy and € 17 million to support civil society.

Belgium and the US have also cut aid to Burundi in the wake of the political crisis in the East African country.