For­eign NGOS leave Bu­rundi as tough law takes e≠ect

The East African - - NEWS -

By A COR­RE­SPON­DENT

SOME FOR­EIGN non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions in Bu­rundi re­cently closed their of­fices after fail­ing to com­ply with the coun­try’s laws at the De­cem­ber 31, 2018 dead­line.

The Bu­rundi govern­ment has de­manded, among other things, that NGOS ob­serve eth­nic quo­tas in re­cruit­ing staff. A diplo­matic source in Bu­jum­bura told

that some 30 NGOS could leave the coun­try, tak­ing away around $280 mil­lion in aid.

Hand­i­cap In­ter­na­tional, which is the lat­est to opt out of the coun­try said the re­quire­ment was not ten­able.

“We have hired Bu­run­di­ans for the past 26 years de­pend­ing on their skills and ex­pe­ri­ence, and we never con­sider the eth­nic­ity,” said Do­minique Delvi­gne, Hand­i­cap In­ter­na­tional direc­tor in the Great Lakes Re­gion.

It has been op­er­at­ing in the ar­eas of health, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, education, pro­tec­tion, so­cio-eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion since 1992.

In a state­ment, by Hand­i­cap said it had en­gaged the Bu­rundi govern­ment in dis­cus­sions with­out any suc­cess. In a meet­ing in De­cem­ber last year, the Min­istry of the In­te­rior said the con­di­tions were "non-ne­go­tiable" and that if they were not met by De­cem­ber 31, 2018, Hand­i­cap would not be al­lowed to re­sume its ac­tiv­i­ties.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion says it was com­mit­ted to the hu­man­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ples of neu­tral­ity, im­par­tial­ity and in­de­pen­dence, adding that “the obli­ga­tion to record the eth­nic com­po­si­tion of staff and to com­mu­ni­cate this in­for­ma­tion to the au­thor­i­ties con­sti­tutes a red line” that it would not cross.

Ar­ti­cle 148 of the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­vides for an eth­nic rep­re­sen­ta­tion in pub­lic en­ter­prises of 60 per cent for Hutu and 40 per cent for Tutsi.

Hand­i­cap In­ter­na­tional said the Con­sti­tu­tion only refers the eth­nic quo­tas in the pub­lic sec­tor and not civil so­ci­eties. It cited Ar­ti­cle 6 of the Bu­run­dian Labour Code, which “en­sures equal­ity of op­por­tu­nity and treat­ment in em­ploy­ment and work for ev­ery­one, with­out any dis­crim­i­na­tion.”

But the govern­ment in­sists that all for­eign NGO ac­tiv­i­ties should be in com­pli­ance with Bu­run­dian laws.

“The law can’t be changed. The NGOS that are not ca­pa­ble of con­form­ing to the law do not have place in Bu­rundi,” said Thar­cisse Niy­ongabo, In­te­rior Min­istry spokesman.

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