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Burundi Criticizes European Union Sanctions

FILE - A policeman walks away after throwing a teargas canister during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, June 2, 2015.

Burundi’s foreign minister said while his country believes in north-south cooperation, it does not believe in neo-colonialism, imperialism and domination of southern nations by the West.

Alain Nyamitwe said sovereign nations are entitled to make decisions that are in their own national interests.

EU imposes economic sanctions

The European Union last week imposed a travel ban and an asset freeze on four Burundi officials, accusing them of blocking efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis. On Monday, the ruling CNDD-FDD party of President Pierre Nkurunziza issued a statement accusing the EU of seeking to fuel ethnic divisions by backing anti-government protesters.

Foreign Minister Nyamitwe said even if EU nations stop their foreign aid to Burundi, they will not stop the government from making decisions that are in its national interest. He said the EU decision to impose sanctions is unilateral and Burundi is not happy about it.

“As far as we are concerned, we were of the view that the EU will have to engage us in conversation before reaching that kind of decision because we believe they made their own decision upon their own assessment of the situation in the country, especially the events that took place two months ago when we had this insurrection against the government. We know it was a unilateral decision which we are not happy about,” he said.

Sanctions against police, military officials

The EU sanctions affect deputy police Chief Godefroid Bizimana and senior cabinet official Gervais Nirakobuca, who is responsible for the police, intelligence agent Mathias-Joseph Niyonzima and former general Leonard Ngendakumana. They have been accused of using excessive force on peace protests.

Nyamitwe said his government believes the police officials conducted themselves appropriately during the protests against President Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a controversial third term.

“The so-called demonstrators were not peaceful and because they were not peaceful and because they were marred by violence coming from the demonstrators side, at times some of them had fired weapons like AK-47s and hand grenades and because of that the police had no other option but to use force,” Nyamitwe said.
Angry reaction to Belgium's economic sanctions

Nyamitwe also criticized former colonial power Belgium which last week announced it was stopping some aid to the Burundian government as a protest against President Nkurunziza's disputed third term bid.

“We believe in cooperation; but we don’t believe in neo-colonialism; we don’t believe in imperialism; we don’t believe in domination of southern nations. Even if it is their money, but they cannot use the money to make us live as if we are not a sovereign nation,” Nyamitwe said.

He said Belgium lacks the moral authority, as Burundi’s former colonial power and in light of the suffering associated with colonialism, to lecture Burundi on how it should run its government. Nyamitwe said Belgium would be making a mistake if it thinks that by stopping aid to Burundi it will get the government to change its position.