Claude Bochu, EU ambassador to Burundi and International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, spoke to The EastAfrican about EU, Burundi relations
Recently you visited the Burundi State House. What were the major talking points?
It was the first meeting between the president and a number European ambassadors — EU, France, Belgium and Germany — in five years. We focused on government priorities on development and how Europe can support them.
The European Union suspended direct aid to the Burundi government in 2015, is there a plan to resume it?
Actually, the EU remained the main donor even after the suspension of financial co-operation. We channel the money through international organisations, UN agencies, local NGOs and member states development agencies.
How did you receive the news about Burundi being withdrawn from the UN Security Council agenda?
It’s a welcome development. We played an active role as European countries to come to that joint declaration, because Burundi doesn’t represent a risk anymore for regional security. However, we should not underestimate the number of recommendations made to Burundian authority to improve governance and rule of law.
During your visit to State House, the government said it has started dialogue, what about?
The president agreed to relaunch political dialogue as contained in the Cotonou agreement on regional and global development, which is a clear sign of normalisation and a welcome development from our side.
The Cotonou agreement includes respect and protection of human rights. What is the status of Burundi?
There are agencies inside Burundi whose mandate is to promote human rights. My view is that Burundian institutions in place legally to do that should be reinforced — be it with resources and independence — because this is a central element in human rights promotion in the country.
So far, have you seen these developments in the country?
They have started to put them in place in the new administration. In fact, the leader of the human rights commission in Burundi was received by the president after a long time.
Seven years from now, with the new government, where do you see EU and Burundi relations?
We have seen clear improvements in terms of stability, rule of law and the electoral process. These are developments in the right direction so no wonder Burundi was removed from the UNSC agenda because Burundi showed it can manage the uncertainties. We would like to see more attention given in improving the business climate to allow investors — some of them Europeans — to contribute to the development of the country, but also to attract others because Burundi has great potential.
Claude Bochu is a French diplomat currently working as the European Union ambassador to Burundi and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
He is the former head of political section of EU in Congo Brazzaville, and has served at the EU headquarters on Africa-EU relations.
He has been the EU ambassador to Burundi since October 2019.