EU should deal with its Brexit headache and leave Burundi to sort out its internal problems, the presidents of Tanzania and Uganda have said. It’s the view of the statesmen that the sanctions are compounding the efforts of regional leaders to resolve the crisis.
Tanzania’s John Magufuli and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni made the call on Saturday in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, where leaders of the East Africa Community (EAC) met for the 18th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State.
The Ugandan leader who was voted new chair of the EAC said in his speech that the summit had tasked him to lead a delegation to Brussels – seat of the EU – to discuss the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and ‘‘the matter of sanctions over Burundi.’‘
“They (Europeans) are taking sanctions against Burundi when they are also facing difficulties at home like the Brexit.”
He said their refusal to sign the EPA was partly because of sanctions on Burundi. “Burundi is our member and no action should be taken against it without our input. Our house is our house,” he added.
President Museveni added that the group also firmly objected to threats by the EU to harm Kenya.
The call was, however, immediately rejected by the EU diplomat who was present at the summit, reiterating that sanctions will remain if the current situation pertains. “The sanctions will remain in place as long as the situation does not change,” EU ambassador to Tanzania and EAC, Roeland van de Geer said.
The Tanzanian president on his part advised Europe to focus on their own problems. “They (Europeans) are taking sanctions against Burundi when they are also facing difficulties at home like the Brexit,” he said.
Burundi is experiencing a serious political crisis which started since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza presented himself as a candidate for a third controversial mandate. He was subsequently re-elected in July of the same year.
The violence has already claimed 500 to 2,000 lives, according to UN and NGO sources. Hundreds of cases of enforced disappearances and torture have forced more than 400,000 Burundians into exile.
African analysts have long been advocating against the sanctions since Uganda and Rwanda have also removed restrictions against the number of times that their presidents can contest without any revolt. In fact, President Paul Kagame has been accused of being behind the oppostion elements who have taken up arms against the government of Burundi.
With the genocide in Rwanda of 1994 on the minds of Africans, European leaders have been cautioned not to allow the situation in Rwanda to become an ethnic war pitching the Hutus against the Tutsis.
The EAC bloc comprises Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, it also includes Burundi, Kenya and South Sudan. The latest country that applied to join was Somalia. // Zachary Ochieng