The European Union and United States have called for a delay to elections in Burundi following deadly protests triggered by the President’s bid to run for a third term.
“We encourage the government of Burundi to take measures to calm the situation, and the idea of a delay in the electoral timetable would be for us a good thing,” EU Special Envoy Koen Vervaeke told reporters on Monday.
US ambassador Dawn Liberi read a similar statement.
Vervaeke, speaking on behalf of the EU as well as Switzerland, said, “the minimum conditions to go for the elections are not met– that is, the freedom of the media and to demonstrate peacefully.”
At least 19 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy and the Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD)nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza to contest for re-election, triggering daily protests.
Belgium, The Netherlands and Switzerland have suspended vital funding for the elections over the violence. Belgium suspended aid to the electoral process in Burundi, withholding two million euros of backing. The Netherlands and Switzerland followed suit.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader who has been in power since 2005, has come under intense international pressure to withdraw from next month’s election and stand down.
African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, last week, warned the time was not right for elections, and that it was “clear that there shouldn’t be a third term.”
Hundreds of opposition supporters defied government orders to end their demonstrations on Monday in the capital Bujumbura, despite the security services ripping down barricades set up during days of protests.
The youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, the Imbonerakure, is accused of carrying out attacks against opposition supporters.
Vervaeke said it was “very disturbing” to have weapons in the hands of groups acting outside the remit of the official security forces.
Brussels suspended its financial support to the electoral process, after thousands marched to the European Parliament on Sunday, May 11, demanding Belgium step in and force Burundi’s ruling party to postpone the upcoming elections.
Belgium is one of Burundi’s closest political allies.
‘Conditions for free elections not met’
The Minister for Development Cooperation, Alexander De Croo, announced he was temporarily suspending the country’s support to the Burundian electoral process.
Police cooperation is also suspended, the minister’s office said in a statement on Monday.
“The Belgian development cooperation had planned a budget of €4 million to support the elections in Burundi. A first tranche of €2 million has already been paid. Deputy Prime Minister De Croo believes that in the current circumstances, the payment of the remaining €2 million should be suspended,” the statement read.
The Election Observation Mission of the European Union in Burundi (EU EOM) reported, last week, that the conditions for free elections were not met.
Burundi opposition have also been calling on the EU to suspend €8 million of financial assistance it committed to support the African country’s controversial upcoming elections.
The EU’s assistance is the main financial contribution to fund the Project to Support the 2015 Electoral Cycle in Burundi – dubbed PACE 2015 – which currently stands at €15 million.