The European Union, strife-stricken Burundi’s biggest aid donor, on Monday warned the country could face “appropriate measures” if it does not remedy its human rights record but stopped short of cutting assistance.
Burundi has been in turmoil since July when President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term, which the opposition said was illegal and in breach of an accord ending a horrific 1993-2006 civil war which left 300 000 dead.
EU foreign ministers said talks with Burundi under the Cotonou agreement, which lays down strict rules for mutual cooperation including the promotion of human rights, had failed to resolve Brussels’ concerns.
“The EU will adopt the appropriate measures necessary in view of the lack of positive signals,” a statement said.
The statement gave no details of the measures envisaged at a time of almost daily bloodshed in the small central African country.
EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said after the foreign ministers’ meeting that while a suspension of aid is on the table, “it was not today’s decision.”
“That is going to be considered in coming weeks and I will give you all the details when the decision has been taken,” Mogherini said.
The foreign ministers’ statement also said it was “essential” that the government take part in talks with the opposition.
“Any other step towards de-escalation and political opening will also be a very significant positive signal,” it said.
“The EU, which is one of Burundi’s main development partners, confirms its willingness to continue its support for the Burundian population through its development activities,” it added.
EU aid programmes for Burundi over the period 2014-20 are worth around $482m and any threat to them would be serious for a very poor country beset by growing violence.
An EU diplomatic source told AFP on Friday that the bloc was considering the suspension of direct aid to Burundi’s government in light of the worsening situation.
A grenade blast on Monday killed a child and wounded at least 30 people in the latest in a string of attacks, Burundi officials said.
Security forces, rebels and the opposition all blame each other for the hundreds of killings since last year.