The Netherlands suspends aid to Burundi

The Netherlands has partially suspended aid to Burundi. Development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen and foreign minister Bert Koenders have several reasons for taking this measure. ‘The situation in Burundi is very unclear at the moment, and very worrying,’ the ministers commented. ‘In recent weeks, there has also been violence and intimidation in the run-up to the elections, and a lack of effort by all parties to reach a compromise. All this makes it impossible to go ahead as planned.’ The Dutch ambassador in Bujumbura is in continuous contact with the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Saïd Djinnit. ‘The situation remains extremely uncertain and fraught with risks,’ the ministers said.

In partnership with other countries, the Netherlands had originally pledged staff and other resources to help Burundi hold elections at the end of this month. Mr Koenders explained, ‘The Netherlands had hoped that the East African countries’ summit on Burundi, which was due to meet yesterday in Dar Es Salaam, would offer prospects for normalising the situation. However, developments in Burundi over the past 24 hours have made it necessary to postpone this gathering.’ Ms Ploumen added, ‘The Netherlands will only resume aid after circumstances have improved, calm has returned and all those involved have agreed to restore domestic peace.’

Ms Ploumen has also decided to suspend Dutch support to the police and army reform programme in Burundi. ‘The Netherlands and Belgium have worked together successfully for many years on professionalising Burundi’s security sector,’ she said. ‘However, it would be irresponsible to continue under the present circumstances.’ The Burundi police were recently accused of using excessive violence in subduing demonstrations, during which a number of people were killed.

The Netherlands will continue to pursue dialogue with the Burundian authorities and other appropriate groups, both through direct contact and via the European Union, to press for de-escalation and normalisation of the situation. ‘This is first and foremost in the interest of Burundi’s people,’ said Mr Koenders. He added that he had recently pressed for a solution during repeated contact with various key individuals, such as the UN Special Envoy and the EU representative in Burundi.

A number of other aid activities in Burundi, which have no connection with the current violence, will be continued for the time being. They include programmes for small farmers and for women. In addition, the Netherlands is making resources available via civil society organisations in Burundi, for projects in areas such as media and human rights.