Burundi links violence to European Union sanctions

Saturday March 19 2016

Burundi has warned the European Union that economic sanctions against the country over human-rights concerns could fan violence, blaming terror groups for the ongoing attacks on civilians and security forces.

After consultations with the EU Council, Burundi said the economic bloc ignored the positive steps taken to restore peace, saying it had made “significant progress” in containing the violence.

“We regret the decision made by the EU without considering the significant advances, efforts and progress despite the challenges posed by terrorist groups that have chosen to target civilians and security forces,” said Burundi government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba.

The consultations were held under Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement, which is invoked when one of the parties fears that some elements of the agreement are not being respected. The EU has repeatedly raised concerns that the Burundian government is flouting provisions on democratic ideals and respect for human-rights.

The EU insisted after the consultations that non-humanitarian support to Burundi would only be forthcoming once President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government met some political conditions.

READ: European Union cuts aid to Burundi govt, to fund humanitarian agencies directly


“We are doing only the direct support to Burundi’s population and humanitarian aid. After this if different political benchmarks are fulfilled by the government then we are ready to resume our co-operation with the country,” said Patrick Spirlet, the EU ambassador to Burundi.

Mr Spirlet said commitments proposed by the Burundian government were insufficient to address the EU’s concerns, especially respect for human-rights, civil liberties and the rule of law.

Mr Nzobonariba said the decision by the European Union may encourage “terrorists” who could take advantage of the violence to carry out terror activities.

“EU did not take into account the positive developments related to the Intra-Burundian Dialogue underway and the recent measures taken in relation to human rights, including granting amnesty to 2,000 prisoners and the cancellation of arrest warrants against certain personalities,” said the government spokesman.

The EU suspended direct financial support to the Burundian administration, including budget support, but maintained financial support to the humanitarian assistance programme.