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Burundi to Slash 2016 Spending, Braces for Aid Cuts after Unrest

  • Reuters

A policeman watches from a distance as residents gather near the bodies of unidentified men killed during gunfire, in the Nyakabiga neighborhood of Burundi's capital Bujumbura, Dec. 12, 2015.

A policeman watches from a distance as residents gather near the bodies of unidentified men killed during gunfire, in the Nyakabiga neighborhood of Burundi's capital Bujumbura, Dec. 12, 2015.

Burundi plans to slash public spending by 16 percent next year and expects foreign aid to almost halve as relations with donors have soured during recent political turmoil, according to a draft 2016 budget passed by the cabinet.

More than 300 people have been killed in Burundi since April, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans for a third term in office. Ensuing street protests and a coup attempt in May were quashed but the capital Bujumbura has been riven by almost daily skirmishes.

Western powers fear aid-dependent Burundi could slide back into civil war and some donors like Belgium have already suspended their financial support in protest at crimes and human rights violations committed by state security forces.

The draft budget passed by the cabinet on Friday showed state spending will drop to 1.2 trillion francs ($777 million) in 2016 from 1.5 trillion francs this year, while expected aid grants will decline 44 percent to 382.2 billion francs.

The government also predicts domestic tax revenues will fall about 5 percent to 675.8 billion francs.

On Friday, in the worst outbreak of violence since the failed coup, the army spokesman said nearly 90 people were killed in clashes between government forces and gunmen, who attacked three military sites in Bujumbura.

But a local human rights organization known as Ligue Iteka said that 85 civilians, mostly young and middle-aged men, were killed by the police who conducted house-to-house searches, hours after the Friday clashes. Police deny any civilians were targeted.

Earlier this week the European Union, the biggest donor to Burundi, said it would partially suspend new aid due to government abuses in relation to rule of law, democratic principles and human rights in the nation of 10 million people.

The EU had been due to disburse about 450 million euro to Burundi over half a decade until 2020, but the bloc said it would suspend all new support except for humanitarian causes and projects where the population directly benefits.

Burundi's 12-year civil war, which ended in 2005, was fought along ethnic lines. While the unrest so far has mostly been political, Western and regional powers fear prolonged violence could cleave open old ethnic rifts and further destabilize a volatile region still scarred by the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

More than 220,000 Burundians have fled the violence to neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Congo.

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