EU, US halt funds to Burundi in protest over vote

The European Union, a major donor to the aid-reliant country, threatened on Monday to withhold more funds after Burundi ignored UN and African calls for a postponement of the parliamentary vote and a presidential election on July 15.

In Washington, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said there were “woefully inadequate conditons for free and fair elections” in Burundi and said the United States was “deeply disappointed” in the decision to go ahead with the vote.

The government has pressed on with the election schedule despite going through its worst political crisis since an ethnically-charged civil war ended in 2005. But opponents say the president’s bid to stand again violates the Constitution.

Aimable Niyonkuru (20) once a supporter of Nkurunziza’s CNDD-FDD party, said he would not vote because the president had not improved the economy or delivered on other promises.

“I am really disappointed about what all politicians are doing,” he said.

Dozens of people queued at a polling station in one district in the capital Bujumbura, but in areas that have seen the most unrest against the president, there was little sign of any election.

Nkurunziza, a rebel commander-turned-president who has built a powerbase mostly in rural areas with a down-to-earth style, cycled from his village in north Burundi to vote at a nearby polling station, one witness said.

Almost 140 000 people, or more than 1 percent of the population of 10-million, have fled across the country’s borders, stoking concern in a region with a history of ethnic conflict, particularly in neighbouring Rwanda, which saw genocide in 1994.

A presidential spokesperson said voting was proceeding smoothly and African and European states could not judge the process before it was completed. He also said any further delay in the votes was “out of the question”.

The president cites a court ruling saying he is permitted to run for a third term and has refused to back down. Dozens have died in the unrest since April when he said he would run again.

Sounds of shooting and at least two explosions were heard overnight in Bujumbura. A witness reported another blast in Bujumbura’s Musaga district on Monday morning.

The private Iwacu newspaper website cited police as saying two grenades exploded in Mayuyu district about 25km southeast of the capital. A police spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

A spate of such attacks in recent days has killed four people and wounded dozens.

The European Union said Burundi’s decision to ignore UN and other international demands to delay voting further was a “serious matter” and could lead to more aid being withheld.

The EU, European nations and the United States have already halted some funds, including support for the elections. European states together fund about half of Burundi’s annual budget.

“The organisation of legislative elections on June 29 without establishing the minimum requirements to ensure their credibility, transparency and inclusiveness, can only exacerbate the deep crisis in Burundi,” the EU said.

The AU said on Sunday it would not send observers as it did not believe voting would be fair. The EU also said it was withdrawing its observers.

“Not being there means they are playing the game of the radical opposition who have boycotted the process,” presidential spokesperson Gervais Abayeho said, adding UN observers were still monitoring the vote.

Critics have said basic requirements for a fair poll mean ensuring the media operates freely and that the ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth wing and other groups are disarmed. The CNDD-FDD dismisses charges its youths are armed. – Reuters

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Reinstated Ingonyama Trust managers hit with retrenchment notices

The effect of Covid-19 and the land reform department’s freeze of R23-million because the ITB didn’t comply with budget submissions are cited as some of the reasons for the staff cuts

Battle over R6bn workers’ retirement fund

Allegations from both sides tumble out in court papers

Nigeria’s anti-corruption boss arrested for corruption

Ibrahim Magu’s arrest by the secret police was a surprise — but also not surprising

Eskom refers employees suspected of contracts graft for criminal investigations

The struggling power utility has updated Parliament on investigations into contracts where more than R4-billion was lost in overpayments

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday