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Burundi Opposition Welcomes Debt Cancellation but Expresses Worry About Government Mismanagement

Burundi's opposition FRODEBU party has welcomed a move by the Paris club totally cancelling the debt the country owes, but claims President Pierre Nkurunziza's government will mismanage the funds. The opposition says despite goodwill from other international support, the government has so far failed to live up to its promises. But the government rejects FRODEBU's accusation as baseless, adding that it is committed to using resources freed by the debt cancellation for priority areas identified in the poverty reduction strategy. The Paris Club of sovereign creditors Wednesday cancelled all the debt owed by Burundi, praising Bujumbura for what it describes as its ambitious economic program. It agreed to write off about $125-million, amounting to 96 percent of the Burundi's debt stock at the end of 2008. Opposition FRODEBU spokesman Pancrase Cimpaye tells reporter Peter Clottey that the money would be used for the ruling party's propaganda ahead of next year's election.

"The decision of the debt cancellation is a good decision, but unfortunately, we don't have good governance in our country right now. We are afraid that that money would not be used to help the poor people of Burundi because for the last three or four years, we have seen the ruling party using money not to help the ordinary people of Burundi, but to help themselves," Cimpaye said.

He said the ruling CNDD-FDD (Conseil National pour la Defense de la Democratie-Forces pour la Defense de la Democratie) party is only interested in winning next year's election.

"Especially now that we are heading towards election, we expect that that money will not help Burundi's poor, but maybe used only for the purposes of the election," he said.

Cimpaye said the government will not use the money to help poor Burundians as it promised to both local and international donors.

"That is the main problem which is the fact that the government is not going to live up to its promise or word to use the money to help the poor. I can give you an example, like when over two million dollars was budgeted for the ministry of water, but the person who was supposed to use the money for the ministry, who is a director from our FRODEBU party. But when it was time for him to use the funds, he was told by the minister that he shouldn't touch the budgeted money, but that it would be used by the president's office. This is unbelievable. I'm telling you that the debt cancellation won't help Burundi in any way," Cimpaye pointed out.

Cimpaye described as unfortunate claims by the government that it would reduce poverty.

"I tell you that the money will not help in reducing poverty like the government told the international community. It would only be used for propaganda and for other businesses. Maybe the president will buy his house or build one in other countries, but that money won't help Burundians," he said.

The Paris Club adds that its creditors are also committed to cancelling another $4.8 million owed by Burundi on a bilateral basis.