BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium has suspended aid to Burundi, the ministry for development cooperation has said, making it the first country to pull funds after violent clashes in the African country.
Nineteen people have been killed in protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office, which opponents say violates both the constitution and a peace deal that ended Burundi’s civil war in 2005.
Belgium had pledged 4 million euros ($4.5 million) to assist with the organization of the forthcoming elections — of which a 50 percent tranche has already been paid.
“Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo believes that in the current circumstances the payment of the remaining 2 million can only be put on hold,” the ministry said in a statement.
It added that the European electoral observation mission for Burundi had concluded last week that current conditions did not allow election candidates to campaign.
Belgium would also pull out of a 5 million euro police cooperation deal in Burundi, which it had in place jointly with the Netherlands, the ministry said.
It said this decision was made after the U.N. human rights body OHCHR had reported that police in Burundi had killed 11 protesters and could not claim it was legitimate defense.
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Crispian Balmer