March 14, 2016 / 11:06 AM / 4 years ago

EU suspends direct aid to Burundi over political crisis

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza addresses a news conference attended by the visiting United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (not seen in picture) in the capital Bujumbura February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Evrard Ngendakumana

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union has suspended direct financial support for the Burundian government after concluding that it had not done enough to find a political solution to conflict that has so far cost more than 400 lives.

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza triggered the crisis in April last year when he announced a bid for a third term. He went on to win a disputed election in July, in the face of street protests and violent clashes.

The European Council, the body that represents the 28 EU nations, said in a statement on Monday that it had finished talks with Burundi and declared that commitments proposed by Bujumbura were insufficient to address EU concerns.

EU aid to Burundi for 2014-2020 is estimated at 432 million euros, going towards energy, rural development, public finances, health and justice reform.

“We always need means to address some challenges but EU aid cut doesn’t mean the government will stop functioning. There is a way of living otherwise; the government will continue running,” Burundi’s Foreign Minister Alain Nyamitwe told Reuters.

The European Union funds about half the annual budget of Burundi and has imposed sanctions on officials close to the president.

Neven Mimica, the EU Commissioner for international cooperation and development, said that the EU remained committed to providing emergency assistance and was preparing projects to ensure basic services for the population, but without channelling resources through the government.

The EU decision will be reviewed at least twice a year.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Additional reporting by Patrick Nduwimana in Kigali; Editing by George Obulutsa and Angus MacSwan

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