Burundi: Suspension of NGOs will throw vital services into disarray

Burundi’s suspension of almost all international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the country is a deeply repressive measure that will severely impact some of the most vulnerable people in the country, Amnesty International said as the suspension announced last week came into effect.

Burundi’s Minister of Interior today confirmed in a meeting with NGO representatives that only organizations running hospitals and schools would be exempt from the suspension.

The suspension of almost all international NGOs in Burundi is a sweeping and arbitrary decision that will cause unnecessary suffering among the population that relies on the vital services these organizations and their local partner NGOs provide
Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“The suspension of almost all international NGOs in Burundi is a sweeping and arbitrary decision that will cause unnecessary suffering among the population that relies on the vital services these organizations and their local partner NGOs provide,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“The measures announced are vague and amount to heavy-handed state interference into the internal affairs of non-governmental organizations. This repressive measure follows increasing restrictions on civil society space and should be reversed immediately.”

The measures announced are vague and amount to heavy-handed state interference into the internal affairs of non-governmental organizations.
Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International Deputy Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

Burundi’s National Security Council announced the three-month suspension on 27 September. The move follows a new law governing foreign NGOs that came into force in January 2017.

At today’s meeting, Burundi’s Minister of Interior said international NGOs had up to three months to present four documents or be deregistered altogether.

The four documents are a cooperation agreement signed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a memorandum with the line ministry; an agreement with the Ministry of Finance that they will respect banking regulations; and a plan to progressively eliminate ethnic inequalities in the staffing of their organizations within three years. 

Meanwhile, all NGOs working in the health sector have been ordered to present their partnership agreements to the Ministry of Health and attend a meeting on 15 October or be deregistered.

The directive and the way it has been communicated has caused much confusion and uncertainty.