On this 8th of February, the European Union council announced that it has decided to lift restrictions against Burundi under article 96 of the ACP-EU partnership agreement. The government of Burundi commends the EU efforts.
By Egide Lucky
“The Council decided today to repeal its decision taken in 2016, which imposed the suspension of direct financial assistance to the Burundian administration or institutions,” reads the EU council press release issued on 8th February, adding that the EU will therefore be able to resume direct cooperation with the Burundian administration.
The EU council argues that the decision to lift restrictions is a result of the peaceful political process that started with the general elections of May 2020 in Burundi.
According to the council, the 2020 elections have opened a new window of hope for the population of Burundi.
“The EU, together with other international partners, is ready to support the ongoing efforts of the Burundian authorities to stabilize and consolidate democratic institutions, promote human rights, good governance and the rule of law.”
“I commend the wise decision of the European Union and its member states to have taken the step of lifting with immediate effect the economic sanctions against my country. Burundi is ready to cooperate with all partners. Together, all is possible,” posted on his twitter account Evariste Ndayishimiye, President of the Republic of Burundi.
According to Albert Shingiro, Burundi minister of foreign affairs, the decision taken by the European Union will warm up bilateral ties between Burundi and the EU.
“The lifting of sanctions against Burundi is a victory shared between Burundi, the European Union and its member states following a long process of frank and sincere dialogue which has been marked by the spirit of openness, compromise and mutual trust between the two parties,” tweeted on February 8th the Burundian chief of diplomacy.
Lewis Mudge, Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch says the Burundian government has not broken with the past.
“It has intimidated critics, detained and tortured perceived opponents. State agents and Imbonerakure (youth members of the ruling party) kept on kidnapping and killing in total impunity,” comments the Human Rights Watch official.
For many Burundians, he adds, the lifting of Article 96 measures without tangible progress in the human rights situation on the ground sends the message that the EU is not prioritizing their rights.
On this Saturday, the 12th of February, hundreds of people in Bujumbura city staged a demonstration near the EU embassy. Their songs were to thank the EU council for lifting economic sanctions against Burundi. They also praised the President of the Republic of Burundi for “having won the battle”.
“Those sanctions were unjust. It is a great pleasure now that the EU has taken a wise decision to lift them with immediate effect,” commented a demonstrator, adding that the direct financial support to the government of Burundi will stimulate development in the country.
In March 2016, the European Union decided to suspend its direct financial support to the Burundian government under Article 96 of the Cotonou ACP-EU Partnership Agreement. It was when the government was working to break up demonstrations against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s 3rd term.
The restrictions also concerned budgetary support, but the European Union had maintained its humanitarian aid and financial support for the population.
The EU remained at the forefront of donors to Burundi. Its aid reached about 430 million euros from 2015-2020.