President Nkurunziza asks students to support election kitty

Saturday January 12 2019

Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza. He has students to contribute to the elections fund. FILE PHOTO | AFP 

By The EastAfrican
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The Burundian government has roped in students to contribute to the elections kitty as it seeks $38 million to finance next year’s general election.

At the start of the school term last week, the government sent out an appeal to students aged 16 years and above to contribute Bif1,000 ($0.6) each to the fund established in 2017.

While some support the scheme, others fear that the appeal could be misconstrued as a directive.

“They are still young and they will be thinking if they fail to pay they will get into trouble,” said a resident of Bujumbura, whose children are in the targeted age bracket.

Others have supported the appeal by President Pierre Nkurunziza to help finance the elections.

Ayouba Bigirimana, a resident of Bujumbura, who supports the decision, told The EastAfrican: “We understand the reason the government took that decision and it is the right one. If a 16-year-old can’t pay that money, the parents will.”

President Nkurunziza, while in his hometown of Ngozi, said preparations for the elections were on course, as Burundians had responded well to his appeal for funding.

“Many citizens have no problem with the contributions, and the students’ contribution is very little money,” he said.

After financing a constitutional referendum last year, President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose administration has suffered from an aid freeze after he ran for a controversial third term in 2015, announced that Burundians would finance the 2020 election.

President Nkurunziza has said he will not run in the election. Burundi is economically unstable since key donors suspended direct aid to the government, as almost half of the budget depended on donor funds.

In 2017, the Burundi government called on citizens to voluntarily contribute to the 2020 general election after key donors, including the European Union and the United States, suspended direct aid to the government, citing human rights violations in the country since 2015 when protests against the president’s move to run for another term in office erupted.

$38 million target

Each household was to contribute Bif2,000 ($1.2) to the national kitty. Now, with students on the scheme, the government is upbeat about realising the $38 million target by next year.

According to government figures, as of September 30, 2018, the election kitty had Bif30,821,752,317 ($17 million) the citizens having contributed Bif14,228,800,483 ($7.9 million) and the rest coming from the government.

No deadlines have been set, but the Finance Ministry hopes the target will be achieved in time for the elections.

Apart from the citizens, companies, organisations, public servants and well-wishers are also contributing. For workers, the amount contributed depends on their salary or income.

Interior Minister Pascal Barandagiye said the money was not a tax or forced payment. Burundi has since 2016 turned to alternative funding for the country’s projects as aid has dried up.

Last year, Burundi aligned its fiscal management calendar with that of the East Africa Community, after changes in the Constitution allowed parliament to approve its budget in June.

MPs passed the Bif1.4 trillion ($793 million) 2018-2019 budget in line with Article 182 of the new Constitution, which revised the date of the beginning of the fiscal year from January 1 to July 1.

The Burundi Revenue Authority is expected to fully fund the country’s budget. Finance Minister Domitien Ndihokubwayo expects to Bif126 billion ($71 million) in domestic revenues in the financial year 2018/2019.

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