The closure of DFID's aid programme in Burundi

Written Evidence Submitted by Christian Aid

1. Introduction

1.1 Christian Aid is a Christian organization that insists the world can and must be swiftly changed to one where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty. We work globally in over 40 countries for profound change that eradicates the causes of poverty, striving to achieve equality, dignity and freedom for all, regardless of faith or nationality. We are part of a wider movement for social justice. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance where need is great, tackling the effects of poverty as well as its root causes.

1.2 Christian Aid is concerned by DFID’s recent decision to end bilateral support to Burundi from 2012/13 and close the DFID Burundi office. We welcome this opportunity to provide written evidence on 'The closure of DFID’s aid programme in Burundi'. We believe that continued bilateral support for Burundi is necessary . We have included specific recommendations for the UK government (HMG). W e also suggest means by which HMG could engage effectively through multilateral fora and diploma cy .

1.3 Christian Aid’s vision in Burundi is to see Burundians living in harmony and in a secure environment; enjoying socio-political rights and empowered to utilize available resources and opportunities to end poverty. Our mission is to empower Burundians to fight hunger, environmental degradation, preventable diseases and conflict; and to challenge and change unfair structures and governance systems that perpetuate poverty.

1.4 Christian Aid’s programmes supporting local church partners in the Great Lakes region began in the 1960s. Following the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the subsequent regional upheaval and influx of refugees into Burundi, we opened our Burundi office in 1995. We have maintained an in-country presence ever since, throughout Burundi’s civil war.

1.5 Today we are working with 10 partners in Health-HIV, Food Security and Governance. In recent years much of our work has focused on the needs of returnees through house reconstruction and fisheries development; livestock distribution and programmes focused on the needs of the extremely poor and marginalised Batwa population. Christian Aid is working with local organisations to address corruption, to help create a culture of accountability and engage with decentralised governance so that citizens can participate in policy development, monitoring and evaluation. We are also supporting large-scale reforestation activities with the Anglican Church.

2. Burundi’s development needs and progress towards MDGs

2.1 Since independence from Belgium in 1962 Burundi experienced successive waves of internal instability and interethnic strife. The 1993-2005 civil war devastated the country, destroying much of what Burundi had achieved in development. Around 300,000 people died and hundreds of thousands fled into exile. With the Arusha peace accords and free and fair elections in 2005, Burundi has made significant progress towards peace and reconciliation. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been peacefully reintegrated. The majority of Burundians are tired of war and committed to peace, and have been willing to make important sacrifices in the interest of peace: sharing scarce resources, especially land, with returnees to enable their successful reintegration.

2.2 Burundi is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Malnutrition levels are amongst the highest globally. Burundi ranks 166 out of 169 countries on the Human Development Index [1] - well below the regional average in Sub-Saharan Africa. Life expectancy is 50 and the vast majority lives below the poverty line [2] . A large proportion of households suffer from food insecurity as a result of unpredictable rainfall, declining soil fertility and rising food prices. Tiny, mountainous and densely populated, with 8.5 million people trying to eke out a living mainly from subsistence agriculture, Burundi’s main exports are coffee and tea.

2.3 Today Burundi faces enormous challenges in reducing widespread poverty, not least because of the intense demographic pressure on land and poor availability of agricultural inputs and credit. The economy’s ability to generate off-farm employment is also limited. In the medium to long run regional integration could help provide opportunities for growth, but this will depend on investment in human capital. HIV is still a serious pandemic with prevalence at around 3%. Infection is increasing, particularly in rural areas and women and youth are becoming the most at-risk groups.

2.4 The government which emerged from legitimate elections in 2005 confirmed its commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and began developing a poverty reduction strategic framework. However Burundi has not yet met any of its MDG commitments. Some sustained results were achieved under the first poverty reduction strategy, in health and education and the government has maintained its commitment to providing universal primary school education. Still, much remains to be done to consolidate this progress: school drop-out rates remain high, especially for girls, and the quality of education is low.

2.5 In the governance and security sector, continuing demobilisation efforts and making progress in administrative reform and in the judicial sector is a priority. Limited results have been achieved in sustainable and equitable growth, and the current growth rate is insufficient to reduce poverty. Burundi remains a very male-dominated society, in spite of encouraging parity in government institutions [3] . Although there have been improvements in legislation, gender-based violence remains a worrying issue. The issue of land is a problem as women have not been able to inherit land.

2.6 It is unlikely that Burundi will make progress towards the MDGs without sustained donor commitment. Growth is particularly weak in the agricultural sector, which employs around 80-90% of the population. As a priority donor support is required to support increased agricultural production and the MDGs on health and education. Vigorous efforts are required to tackle corruption, which hinders the mobilisation of resources from both international donors and discourages investment from the private sector.

3. Consolidating peace and accountable governance in Burundi

3.1 Burundi continues to experience the consequences of decades of impunity, corruption and weak state-citizen accountability. After many decades of internal conflict, impunity for past crimes contributes to an environment in which security forces continue to commit serious human rights violations. Corruption and misuse of power is endemic and pervades all sections of the Burundian administration. Citizens are routinely forced to pay bribes for state services and there is a lack of transparency in the management of public affairs. Citizens have limited capacity to hold the authorities to account.

3.2 Peaceful and participatory elections in 2005 and 2010 testimony to Burundians’ overwhelming commitment to avoid a return to armed conflict. However following the opposition’s boycotting of the 2010 presidential and legislative elections, Burundi has slid back into a deep internal political crisis. The parliament and other institutions are now controlled by the CNDD-FDD ruling party and opposition leaders remain in exile. There has been an increase in political tension, a revival of dissident Burundian armed groups and violations of human rights, political intimidation, politically-motivated attacks and extra-judicial killings [4] . The risks are particularly high, given that the political opposition includes a former rebel group that had only quite recently disarmed ahead of elections last year.

3.3 Today the CNDD-FDD dominates the government, parliament and security forces. However countervailing forces do exist, including the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition, civil society, independent media and churches. Space for civil society exists, although at times the government attempts to restrict this by harassing media and human rights activists. There is a high degree of unpredictability and civil society actors sometimes face insecurity and intimidation. Little progress has been made in addressing high profile corruption cases and human rights abuse [5] .

3.4 Burundi has made progress towards peace and reconciliation and has moved on from its legacy of ethnic division and polarization so that ethnicity is no longer dominates politics. However peace is fragile and the ingredients for renewed conflict are still present.

3.5 As one of the poorest countries in the word, Burundi is still very vulnerable and needs continued external support. Sustained international support is essential if Burundi is to catch-up after years of conflict, which derailed the country’s development. DFID should reconsider its decision to disengage and maintain its support as a bilateral partner.

4. Opportunities for development in Burundi

4.1 Burundi has a weak state but has more room for civil society than can be found in other transitional African countries, Burundi enjoys a vibrant civil society, coherent in fighting corruption and abuse, standing firm in suggesting alternative solutions and in openly criticizing government malpractice. The most active organisations operate locally through Burundi’s very effective and independent Civil Society Forum (FORSC) [6] .

4.2 Burundi is a small country with relatively good transport infrastructure and, importantly, resilient, hard-working and well-organised communities. Progress has been made in constructing and rehabilitating road infrastructure, so that most areas are no longer cut-off. The country has potential: its varied geography allows for variety in agricultural production. If soils can be protected from erosion, Burundi could improve food production and seek to increase export of higher value commodities. Lake Tanganyika is clean and productive with some potential for ecologically sustainable tourism and for sustainable fish production.

4.3 Christian Aid’s experience in Burundi demonstrates that humanitarian and development initiatives can yield results. We have responded to the basic needs of internally displace people, have helped thousands of people affected by conflict to restart agricultural activities, rebuild their homes and important socio-economic infrastructure, such as schools and health centres. We have contributed to the successful reintegration of thousands of refugees and young ex-combatants.

4.4 Our partners have had an impact nationally through their human rights and reconciliation work [7] . Our efforts to empower extremely marginalised Batwa pygmy communities are also significant: the leverage of our education and agriculture programme has been huge, with the Batwa population gaining respect within Burundian society, thousands of their children now enrolled in schools and families achieving increased food security, self-sufficiency and dignity. With DFID funding in 2005-6, Christian Aid and partners ran civic and voter education activities to prepare the electorate for democratic elections.

4.5 The Burundian context provides a strong case for increased support. DFID and other donors should capitalise on the development opportunities Burundi offers, particularly through supporting the country’s vibrant civil society. Donors should demonstrate solidarity with the Burundian people who are now deeply committed to peace.

5. DFID’s role as a bilateral donor in Burundi , in its regional context

5.1 DFID has played an important role in Burundi’s recovery, through its in-country presence and the development assistance it has provided. DFID’s annual contribution of roughly £12 million is relatively little compared to other bilateral donors’ commitments [8] and indeed when compared to the aid DFID has provided to neighbouring states [9] .

5.2 In spite of relatively low aid allocations, DFID has achieved significant leverage, playing a decisive role in the process for reviewing Burundi’s poverty reduction strategy. Although there is clearly still a long way to go, DFID has made an essential contribution to the MDGs on education and health, supporting the government’s commitments on: i) providing free healthcare for children under five; ii) free maternal healthcare; and iii) free primary school education.

5.3 DFID efforts to promote human rights and the setting-up of transitional justice mechanisms are also welcome. Through its in-country presence, DFID has contributed significantly to the quality of multilateral efforts to support Burundi’s transition and post-conflict recovery, for example playing an important role in the discussions around the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) and the renewal of the UN Mission’s mandate.

5.4 DFID’s continued in-country presence in Burundi is necessary, given the ongoing challenges Burundi faces. We believe DFID’s decision to disengage from Burundi as a bilateral donor is a mistake, which will undermine value for money and efforts to safeguard, and build on, the development results DFID has helped Burundi achieve thus far.

6. The r isks of UK disengagement from Burundi

The consequences for poverty reduction and the achievement of the MDGs in Burundi

6.1 Without continued international commitment and support Burundi will not make sufficient progress on the multiple challenges it faces. There is a significant risk that the Burundian government will not achieve its MDG commitments, given the country’s limited economic growth and domestic resource mobilisation. It is unlikely that many of the MDGs will be achieved by 2015. UNDP has for example found it almost impossible for Burundi to achieve the MDG on elimination of extreme poverty and hunger with over 60% of the population living under the poverty line [10] .

6.2 If DFID ends its support to Burundi’s joint-donor basket fund for education, for example, this will create uncertainty around the future of the fund and could undermine the Burundian government’s ability to deliver its commitments on providing universal free primary education. Destabilising the basket fund will damage DFID’s legacy in this sector and the sustainability of results DFID has achieved in leveraging impact over donor funding.

6.3 Burundi’s projected level of achievement on MDGs provides a strong basis for donor resource mobilisation. DFID should continue supporting the Burundian Government’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP II), particularly health and education programming.

6.4 The PRSP II is due to be produced in mid-2011. This will provide an opportune moment for DFID to align support to national poverty reduction priorities. For the foreseeable future DFID should maintain its in-country presence and bilateral aid programme to continue to leverage impact over donor funding.

Implications for DFID’s wider investment the Great Lakes region

6.5 DFID’s decision to cut bilateral aid to Burundi also has consequences for the stability of the wider region. As discussed in Christian Aid’s submission to the IDC inquiry into Working Effectively in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States: DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, there are significant cross-border, regional dynamics in the Great Lakes, which have impacted on all three countries . If Burundi’s post-conflict stabilization process falters this would have implications for both DRC and Rwanda, where DFID is the largest bilateral donor.

6.6 Much of Burundi’s internal strife and suffering in the 1990s took place away from the world’s television cameras. Partly as a consequence, Burundi has received only a tiny fraction of the external aid provided to the Great Lakes region. Burundi receives only about half of the overall aid provided to Rwanda, despite being about three times as poor in terms of GNI per capita [11] . Research suggests that differential treatment by external aid partners in the Great Lakes could undermine economic development by creating ‘spill-over effects of exclusion in the region’ [12] .

6.7 HMG should safeguard its investment in the Great Lakes region by maintaining a bilateral programme in Burundi. DFID must continue support to Burundi’s development, reconstruction and peace building efforts as an essential part of a coherent regional approach.

7. Support a ‘peace dividend’ to Burundi to avert the risk of renewed conflict and instability

7.1 Peace remains fragile and the ingredients for renewed conflict are still present. There are still many underlying destabilising factors which will require years of development progress to fully resolve: weak political systems, no tradition of accountability and democracy and above all, grinding, widespread poverty. The lack of livelihood opportunities makes young people particularly vulnerable to manipulation. The ongoing proliferation of small arms amongst civilians adds to the potential for violence.

7.2 Burundi’s fragile peace was acknowledged by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in his November 2010 report [13] . The UN Secretary General identified the next five years as being critical and appealed to the international community to focus on recovery, development and democratic consolidation. Ambassador Paul Seger, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission has also appealed to international donors to continue supporting Burundi in order to deliver a ‘peace dividend’ to the country [14] .

7.3 Continued UK bilateral cooperation is required to help support Burundi’s continuing transition from a post-conflict economy to a developing economy. This must include investment in funding mechanisms to enable poor women and men to access basic services. Aid must also promote job creation for young people, who constitute a large proportion of the population.

8. How DFID can disengage responsibly

8.1 DFID should urgently review the BAR decisions to end bilateral aid to Burundi in 2012 and should instead phase out its support gradually over a longer, more realistic time frame

8.2 Burundi is a heavily aid-dependent country, with foreign aid accounting for 40% of the Gross National Income (GNI) in 2008-9. Although the Burundian economy appears to be gradually becoming less dependent on aid as a share of GNI [15] , the national budget remains heavily aid dependent, with around 50% funded by external donors. It will take time for Burundi to achieve self-sufficiency and increase economic growth as a means of tackling poverty. Accordingly, DFID should phase out bilateral support over time, rather than ending aid abruptly.

8.3 Given the important risks associated with ending bilateral support, we strongly recommend that DFID open up wide consultation involving civil society as well as state actors, to properly assess the risks. If DFID is to disengage responsibly, any decision to cut bilateral aid should be accompanied by coherent longer term exit strategy.

8.4 From 2012 DFID intends to focus solely on supporting ‘economic growth’ and ‘wealth creation’ in Burundi through the facilitation of trade and regional integration into the East African Community (EAC) [16] . This is to be achieved through the Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) initiative, created by DFID.

8.5 DFID may be right that in the long run Burundi’s economic integration into the EAC offers the greatest prospects for economic growth, given that Burundi ’s fortunes are closely linked to the wider region. However, to give such policies the biggest chance of success, delivering results and providing value for money for UK aid, it is absolutely essential that the short run, in parallel to supporting regional integration, DFID continues bilateral programmes to support Burundi’s efforts to invest in human capital and address corruption. Otherwise Burundi will not be in a strong position to benefit from regional integration.

8.6 Moreover, given the fragility of Burundi’s state institutions and the current political dispensation, there is a risk that if the Burundian government is not able to meet the commitments it has made to the Burundian people, it may not be able to maintain the minimum levels of domestic legitimacy, stability and state effectiveness required for Burundi’s successful integration into the EAC.

8.7 To give regional integration the maximum chances of success, therefore, DFID must maintain bilateral aid to i) support Burundi’s achievement of MDGs on health and education ii) civil society strengthening to promote transparency and tackle corruption.

DFID must increase support to anti-corruption and transparency efforts

8.8 Burundi remains a fragile state with a weak government that risks pursuing politicians’ self-interest through unaccountable practices. Given the high levels of corruption in Burundi, DFID should support civil society strengthening and independent budget monitoring as a complimentary strategy to any tax reform initiatives.

8.9 Without investment in transparency and anti-corruption efforts and governance reforms, it is likely that DFID’s support to setting up a new Revenue Authority [17] will not deliver the desired results and value for money. If corruption is not addressed and effective participatory budget monitoring implemented, the additional revenue collected will likely not lead to improved results in service delivery and MDGs.

8.10 DFID should consider setting up, jointly with other donors, an independent funding mechanism for supporting civil society to contribute to strengthening citizens’ voice and accountability in Burundi . DFID is supporting the Civil Society Fund for Good Governance in neighbouring DRC. We believe this fund offers a model for donor support to civil society for long-term democratic change in fragile states.

Maintain effective diplomatic efforts to help consolidate peace in Burundi

8.11 As discussed in Christian Aid’s submission to the IDC inquiry into Working Effectively in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States : DRC, Rwanda and Burundi , Burundi needs effective international support more than ever. HMG should ensure more coordinated effective multilateral and bilateral diplomatic pressure to i) encourage political dialogue between the government and opposition and promote inclusive politics, specifically the return of opposition leaders currently outside the country and ii) help address impunity and abuse and encourage the Government of Burundi to protect civilians and bring perpetrators to justice.

8.12 HMG must work with EU partners to ensure that the European Commission Delegation and other EU Member States make public their local strategy for the protection of Burundian defenders, in accordance with the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.

8.13 As a matter of urgency, the UK should urge for an appointment to be made to fill the EU Special Representative (EUSR) for the Great Lakes role. Christian Aid is concerned at reports that the Great Lakes position is to be discontinued [18] and urges the UK to support the continuation of the EUSR post, given the ongoing need for effective, high-level EU diplomacy on the Great Lakes region.

8.14 In order to have diplomatic influence in Burundi and coordinate effectively with other actors, the UK should maintain a bilateral aid relationship and a presence in Burundi for the foreseeable future.

[1] Footnotes


[1] Human Development Index .


[2] Life Expec tancy: 50; Poverty Ratio 68.0 % ( World Bank website )


[3] Women’s participation in parliament is 32 per cent, 50 per cent in the Senate and 43 per cent in the Cabinet.

[4] ‘ Political tensions blamed for wave of killings in Burundi ’ April 2011 AFP a rticle 7th April 2011


[5] Notably the assassination in April 2009 of Ernest Manirumva, a leading anti-corruption advocate. Hu man rights defenders in Burundi have campaigned to keep the Ernest Manirumva case on the national and international agenda and continue to call for justice.


[6] The FORSC platform includes Christian Aid partners Observatoire de l’Action Gouvernementale (‘The Observatory of Government Action’: OAG ) and human rights organisation, Ligue Iteka .


[7] Our partner JAMAA was awarded by UNESCO in 2003 for its ground-breaking peace and reconciliation work with Burundian youth.


[8] Burundi ’s main bilateral partners are France and Belgium which gave, respectively 71m and 56m in 2008-9 according to OECD statistics, see the Recipient Aid Chart for Burundi 2007-9 .

[9] DFID has provided steady support to post-war recovery and development in Rwanda since the late 1990s and has positioned itself as the largest bilateral donor . Burundi has received a fraction of the support given to Rwanda : DFID’s contribution to Burundi is around £12m a year, the total spend in Rwanda in 2009-10 was over £50 million. Following the Bilateral Aid Review DFID now plans to spend an average of £83 million per year in Rwanda until 2015 ( DFID website ). DFID is also the largest bilateral donor to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it spent well over £100 million in 2009-10 and is planning to spend an average of £198 million per year in DRC until 2015 DFID website .

[10] Burundi Millennium Development Goals Report 2010, UNDP and Government of Burundi .


[11] Whereas in 2009 Rwanda received 934m USD net ODA (Overseas Development Assistance), Burundi received only 549m USD, OECD Aid Statistics, Recipient Aid Chart for Burundi and Rwanda in 2007-9.



[12] ‘ The Aid 'Darlings' and 'Orphans' of the Great Lakes Region in Africa ’ , S Marysse et al 2006 .


[13] 30 November 2010 Seventh report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Office in Burundi


[14] ‘ Burundi is achieving progress in transitional justice and human rights, affirms the Secretary Genera ’s S pecial R epresentative ’ (translated from French) UN Security Council report 17 May 2011 .


[15] Aid decreased as a share of Burundi ’s ’ GNI from 48% in 2007 to 41% in 2009 according to OECD Aid Statistics, Recipient Aid Chart for Burundi 2007-9.


[16] DFID Burundi Operational Plan , May 20011

[16] .

[17] DFID’s May 2011 Summary of DFID’s Work in Burundi 2011-2012 includes plans to set up a new Revenue Authority to collect £230m of revenue in 2011, an increase of £35m from 2010.


[18] ‘ Ashton keen to axe Congo conflict envoy ’ EU Observer 17 th May 2011 .



[18] 05/2011

Prepared 31st May 2011