BRUSSELS FEBRUARY 16, 2016 (CISA) – The European Union is prepared to toughen economic sanctions on Burundi following the failure of talks to end a political crisis in the country in which more than 440 people have been killed.
“The EU… stands ready to impose restrictive measures against those whose actions might have led or might lead to acts of violence and repression (and) serious human rights violations,” European ministers said in a statement released during a meeting in Brussels on February 15.
The statement added that those hampering a political solution could also be targeted.
Last April President Pierre Nkurunziza, decision to stand for a third term triggered nine months of violence. He later refused to accept an African Union peacekeeping plan, saying it would amount to an invasion.
Nearly a quarter of a million people have fled the violence in Burundi and a further 25,000 are displaced within the country, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
The EU last year imposed asset freezes and travel bans on four officials close to President Nkurunziza who are accused of using excessive force during clashes in the run-up to his re-election. The United Nations has repeatedly warned of Burundi sliding back into an ethnically charged conflict, more than a decade after a civil war that killed 300,000.
The EU Burundi’s biggest aid donor however said it would not suspend aid to the country instead many of the funds are now being rerouted directly to humanitarian agencies rather than to the government.
On December 8 2015 the EU had invited Burundian officials to Brussels for formal talks, hoping they could chart a path to new elections, but the talks failed to find a way forward.