The E.U could impose sanctions on Burundi officials, but is that all they can do?


The European Union (EU) has taken certain measures in response to Nkurunziza’s disputed reelection in July 2015. Last week, EU ambassadors agreed to ban travel and freeze the assets of four officials close to President Pierra Nkurunziza, which will be formally adopted on Thursday. While Burundi says it will continue to foster good ties with the union, an attempt to dictate certain policies will not be welcomed.

President Pierre Nkurunziza went against the two-term limit agreed upon, a decade ago. A move which not only illuminated his dismissive attitude towards the insistence of the international community but has also plunged Burundi into its worst crisis since the civil war ended in 2005.

But while the EU, which funds nearly half the annual budget of Burundi, is also considering the suspension of some trade preferences under the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000, countries are careful not to worsen the current situation in the central African country. If any drastic actions are taken in protest of Nkurunziza’s reelection, the results could lead to increased violence in Burundi and other neighboring countries like Rwanda and Tanzania.

Nkurunziza will not be sanctioned to “keep open the channels of dialogue,” one EU diplomat said, while one minister of the new government has also been struck off the EU’s initial list for the same reason.

“Completely cutting off communication won’t bring the political solution we seek,” said one EU diplomat. A second diplomat confirmed the sanctions decision. In July, EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said the EU was preparing the sanctions “against those whose actions led to acts of violence, repression and serious human rights abuses.”

Both anti-government protests and the post-election crisis have led to the death of many civilians and the assassination of local leaders. Former Security Chief General Adolphe Nshimirimana was also originally on the EU’s list, but he was shot dead as he commuted through the Kamenge neighbourhood in Bujumbura—the nation’s capital. Just a month after this assassination, a top Burundian general and a close aide to President Pierre Nkurunziza, an official of the opposition Union for Peace and Development (UDP) party, was shot dead yesterday in Burundi, raising fears of heightened crisis as the opposition seemed to be getting even more relentless.

While the United Nations warned on Monday of an “alarming upsurge” in the number of killings and arbitrary arrests in Burundi, the United States has imposed visa bans on certain Burundian government officials.

The government says the election was fair, but the opposition and other human rights bodies have been relentless in showing their disapproval of the ruling government and there are speculations that these assassinations are being carried out by both parties to weaken opposing strongholds.

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