Freeze EU aid to the Burundi government, say MEPs

By European Parliament

Growing insecurity, the lack of political moves towards reconciliation and worsening humanitarian conditions in Burundi, a country that tops the Global Hunger Index, are highlighted by MEPs in a resolution voted by a show of hands on Thursday. They welcome consultations under the Cotonou Agreement that could lead to suspension of EU aid to the Burundi government, and ask the EU and its member states to consider re-directing non-humanitarian EU aid to civil society there.

MEPs condemn the latest attacks in which Burundi security forces killed at least 87 people in seemingly "random executions" and urge Burundi to end torture and persecution, including of the press, political opponents and human rights activists. They urge Burundi to reinstate the rule of law, put an end to impunity and bring the culprits to justice. The abuse of the Constitution by current Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza must stop and the failed national reconciliation dialogue should resume, they add.

Sanctions and freezing EU aid

MEPs welcome the EU's targeted sanctions against those responsible for violence and sabotage of the political dialogue and welcome EU "consultations" with Burundi launched December 8 as a step towards invoking the human rights clauses of the Cotonou agreement, which could potentially lead to a suspension of EU aid.

They urge the EU and its member states to already consider freezing non-humanitarian assistance to Burundi government, if "excessive use of force and human rights violations by government forces are not stopped" and re-direct this aid to the civil society.

About half of Burundi's state budget comes from international aid, with the EU contributing some €432 million in the 2014-2020 EU budgeting period.

Humanitarian crisis

MEPs express grave concern at the numbers of victims and cases of serious human rights violations and call on Burundi authorities to ensure that "schools remain a safe haven for learning" instead of being turned into military and police camps. They note that many children under 18 years old are being enrolled in armed groups and urge Burundi to address the "rapidly worsening humanitarian situation" in a country where 66.9% of the population lives below the poverty line.

They also highlight the dramatic levels of discrimination and criminalisation of LGBTI people in Burundi and warn of a looming refugee crisis in the region, where more than 200,000 people are internally displaced or have fled to neighbouring countries.