The European Union announced today that it would no longer provide aid to Burundi due to violence in the country. Proposed changes by the Burundian government were deemed “insufficient to address the EU concerns,” according to an EU statement. The cuts come at the expense of the government itself, humanitarian assistance will continue for people living in Burundi.
“The situation in Burundi remains of serious concern for the EU, though we have seen recently some glimpses of hope. Today’s decision makes clear that for our relations to be fully resumed we expect a number of concrete measures to be carried out,” said Federica Mogherini, high representative for EU foreign affairs and security policy, in the statement.
African countries and the EU are linked through a treaty called the Cotonou Agreement. Investigations began in December regarding whether Burundi carried out human rights violations and curtailed the rule of law. Under Article 96 of the agreement, such acts can negate the deal.
Burundi has been unstable for nearly a year. Unrest and a failed coup attempt preceded the election of President Pierre Nkurunziza to his third term in office. Opposition figures and protesters say that Nkurunziza flouted the constitution, which limits the president to two terms. Fighting and instability have forced nearly 250,000 Burundians to flee for asylum in neighboring countries.
Some experts have warned that the violence may lead the country to return to civil war after a decade of peace. From 1993 to 2006, brutal fighting in the country left an estimated 300,000 people dead. A peace deal put an end to the fighting and the country found stability in the years that followed. Despite warnings, the international community, U.N. and African Union have struggled to bring calm to Burundi. The arrest of opposition leader Hugo Haramategeko yesterday suggests no change in the current state.
Aid from the EU to Burundi is worth $480 million between 2014 and 2020, a significant amount of money for a country with a federal budget totaling less than $1 billion per year. Burundi cut its budget to $777 million for 2016 in anticipation of lost foreign aid and tax revenues. It knew today’s announcement was coming.
“The government of Burundi is not surprised by this decision. We had been expecting it in spite of the measures we have taken on human rights and security issues. … Burundi has managed so far and I hope it will continue to do so,” said Alain-Aime Nyamitwe minister of external affairs, to Agence France-Presse.
The EU will review this decision twice a year, which give Burundi the chance to resolve the current conflicts and see its aid resumed.