Burundi relations with the European Union appear to have ‘normalised’ when the latter announced on Tuesday resumption of funding it had suspended in 2016.
The decision by Brussels is a big achievement for President Evariste Ndayishimiye who took over in June 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and sanctions by all Western countries. He initiated changes in governance to better relations regionally and internationally.
In a short statement Tuesday, President Ndayishimiye said; “I salute the wise decision of the European Union and its member states for having taken the step of lifting with immediate effect the economic sanctions against my country. Burundi is ready to co-operate with all partners. Together, anything is possible.”
As one of the country’s biggest partners, the EU funded half of Burundi’s annual budget, programmes in health, education and women and gender issues, but suspended the support when the late president Pierre Nkurunziza clamped down on dissent and other rights following an attempted coup in 2015.
But since the coming in of President Ndayishimiye’s administration, the European bloc says there have been positive signs and he has turned a page on governance, including improved respect for human rights and the rule of law.
The European Council has lifted sanctions doing away with suspension of financial support and disbursements of funds directly to the Burundian administration or institutions.
The EU said that a peaceful political process that started with the general election of May 2020 opened a new window of hope for Burundi.
“Since the 2020 elections, the EU has acknowledged the progress made by the Burundian government with respect to human rights, good governance and the rule of law, as well as commitments taken in its roadmap towards further improvements in those areas,” the statement reads.
“We are happy with the decision and the move will bring willing investors to Burundi who are assured of security and we will continue to foster the good relations with the EU,” said Burundi’s Foreign Affairs Minister Albert Shingiro on Tuesday.
Burundi and the EU initiated talks last February to normalise relations, resumption of dialogue a few months after Ndayishimiye took over.
The US lifted its sanctions last November and the UN closed the Office of the Special Envoy for Burundi in May 2021 after Burundi showed progress in reconciliation.
Burundi has since reached out positively to the EAC and Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta, current chairperson of the Peace and Security Council, told a session of the AU last week that Bujumbura’s progress should be emulated.
While presenting a report of the Peace and Security Council on the activities and the state of peace and security in Africa, at the 35th ordinary session of the AU assembly Addis Ababa, President Kenyatta hailed Burundi for the positive progress in 2021.
“In this regard I call upon other member states to emulate this example as we intensify our collective efforts to end wars and build prosperity in our continent,” said President Kenyatta, February’s Chair of the AU Peace and Security Council.
Last year in April, the Council decided to remove Burundi from its agenda and to close the African Union Human Rights Observers and Military Experts Mission in Burundi.