Belgium will offer aid to Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries, the Brussels government has said, but will not restore full support to Burundi until Bujumbura meets new conditions set by the European Union in the next five months.
The European Union (EU) wants Burundi to address human rights concerns, governance and democratic principles, failure to which the bloc will suspended aid.
Belgian envoy to Rwanda Arnout Pauwels said Brussels will stand by the decision taken by the European Union.
“If there is no solution within these five months, then the next steps will be taken; but first it is about bringing genuine political dialogue and for that the human rights situation should be immediately improved,” he said.
“There will be a re-orientation of the development cooperation, which is bigger than the bilateral cooperation; and this will certainly bring financial pressure on the Burundian government.”
The 28-nation EU provides about half of Burundi's annual budget.
EU has imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on four Burundians for allegedly blocking peaceful attempts to resolve the country’s nearly six-month-old conflict. Belgium, the former colonial power, has separately, already suspended part of its aid.
Pauwels says Belgium hopes to see the restoration of peace in the country, through Burundi’s own solutions, that will bring an end to the worstcrisis since a civil warended in 2005, and which will also see a return of refugees.
“They should find a stable political consensus amongst themselves … but those conditions are not there right now. So we hope that mediation efforts by the African Union will have some effect.”
The EU says more than 120 people have died and 190,000 people have been forced to flee Burundi to neighbouring Rwanda and Tanzania since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to seek a third term in office.
The Belgium government last week donated a total of €1.5 million ($1.6 million) to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees ($1.1 million) and the World Food Programme for emergency response in support of the Burundian refugees.