Belgium cuts aid to Burundi government as EU sanctions hit

Friday October 02 2015

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza. PHOTO | FILE |

Former colonial power Belgium said on Friday it would halt some aid to the government of Burundi in protest at President Pierre Nkurunziza's disputed third term as leader of the central African country.

Separately, the European Union imposed travel bans and asset freezes agreed earlier this week on four officials close to Nkurunziza who are accused of using excessive force during clashes in the run-up to his re-election in July.

Under agreements that ended a civil war in 2005, presidents were limited to two terms in Burundi, an ethnically divided country of just over 10 million people that has suffered months of violence and unrest since Nkurunziza said he would run again.

Belgium, from which Burundi gained independence in 1962, said it was immediately halting aid programmes benefiting the government, including its support for the justice system.

It said it would switch these funds to other programmes to help Burundians, for example via aid groups. Belgium will continue to finance health care initiatives.

"Aid that we know for sure will benefit the population will be kept," said Alexander De Croo, minister for development aid.


Belgian aid for Burundi was just under 50 million euros ($55.8 million) in 2013, most of it going directly to the state.

The EU, which funds about half the annual budget of Burundi, is also considering whether to limit its aid, diplomats said, but is wary of hurting ordinary people.

Under the EU sanctions list published on Friday, European governments agreed to impose asset freezes and travel bans on the president's chief of staff, Gervais Indirakobuca, accusing him of "obstructing the search for a political solution" and "issuing instructions that led to ... acts of violence, acts of repression and violations of international human rights".

A national intelligence officer, a former general and the deputy head of the national police are also on the EU list.