The European Union has been cutting down on aid extended to Burundi’s government. This was in a bid to get President Nkurunziza to attend peace talks. This has however only inspired Mr Nkurunziza to redirect spending from health and education to the security forces, leaving the UN and charities to look after children, the sick and the hungry.
Insecurity has plunged the economy to an all time low and the people are beginning to starve. According to IMF, the country’s GDP contracted by 7% in 2015. People cannot move around comfortably because of the large number of police roadblocks and the chance of one being arrested if caught in the wrong place.
In some neighbourhoods the price of rice has trippled. The rural areas have not been spared of the aftermath of the crisis. The farmers near Ijenda, an area 45km from Bunjumbura, used to sell vegetables to people on the road and use the proceeds to buy flour and fertiliser. Now, the customers are gone. So harvested food is rotting in some areas, while in others, some are facing the possibility of starvation.
Not all aid will be cut,some will be “reprogrammed” through the UN. However, the share of the budget accounted for by aid is likely to fall further from the cut by half experienced in 2015 to less than a third this year. Whether the squeeze will do much to prevent the violence is hard to determine at this point in time.
Mr Nkurunziza shows little interest in talks. Perhaps fearing assassination, he rarely enters Bujumbura. Choosing rather to remain in the countryside.
Even before the crisis, reports indicated that the living conditions were deteriorating for most people. With the political crisis, things have deteriorated even further.
The apparently decent 4% to 4.5% growth of Burundi’s GDP in the past years is towered over by a population growth above 3%. The number of mouths to feed keeps growing very fast and the GDP per capita has not grown by more than 1.5% in the best of the past years.
A cut down in donor funding means that if nothing is done, then the economy will continue to deteriorate given that trading in open spaces is headed to an almost absolute halt with some citizens fleeing to the neighbouring country for safety.