The Council of the European Union (EU) has officially renewed its restrictive sanctions against Burundi till ending of October 2017. It extends a 2015 sanction on four individuals who wield high political and security clout in the country.
According to a statement from the Council, the latest sanction ‘‘consists of a travel ban and asset freeze against four persons whose activities were deemed to be undermining democracy or obstructing the search for a political solution to the crisis in Burundi.’‘
The EU also bemoaned acts of violence, repression or incitement to violence, and acts which constitute serious human rights violations in the country. They also called for restraint on the part of the government and other political stakeholders.
‘‘The Council considered that the absence of progress in the situation regarding the four persons under restrictive measures justified the prolongation of the sanctions,’‘ the statement added.
The four persons include; Godefroid Bizimana – a Deputy Director General of the National Police, Gervais Ndikarobuca – Head of Cabinet of the Presidential Administration, Mathias/Joseph Niyonzima, – Officer of the National Intelligence Service, all three have been accused of complicity for obstructing the search for a political solution in Burundi by inciting violence and acts of repression during the demonstrations that started on 26 April 2015.
The fourth person is Léonard Ngendakumana, an ex ‘Chargé de Missions de la Présidence’ and former army general, also accused of obstructing search for a political solution and also participating in the attempted coup d‘état of 13 May 2015 to overthrow the Burundi Government.
Since April 2015 when president Nkurunziza said he was running for a third term in elections that he eventually won and which opponents said was unconstitutional, over 400 people have been killed in gun battles in the country.
As at March 2016, two percent of the population – 220,000 people – had fled to neighboring countries like Rwanda, which was torn apart by genocide in 1994. Like Burundi, Rwanda has an ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority.
European nations and the United States have led efforts to put pressure on Bujumbura with aid cuts.
Brussels said on March 14 it was suspending direct financial support to the government, affecting a package worth about 432 million euros ($480 million) for 2014 to 2020, although emergency aid would continue.
To resume funding, the EU said Burundi had to free up the media, deal with rights abuses and launch genuine peace talks.