The government of Belgium has announced a new funding package worth €150 million to Burundi according to the Belgium envoy to Burundi.
“In January 2024, we will launch a new cooperation program worth around 150 million euros, half of which will be bilateral aid. That is to say, directly in support of national policy by working directly in the sectors of health, agriculture and both professional and post-basic education. So, it is direct support,” said Ambassador Michael Wimmer.
Ambassador Michael Wimmer made the announcement during a press conference on Friday as part of the celebration of the Belgian King’s Day and the 10th anniversary of the accession to the throne of H.M. King Philippe.
With this new aid, Ambassador Michael Wimmer said the quarell between the two countries is completely over and a concrete sign of improving relations between the two countries.
According to Ambassador Michael Wimmer, this is the first cooperation program since 2010 following the diplomatic quarrel of 2015.
This agreement, which will extend over 5 years, will allow, among other things, the creation of 7,000 jobs.
This program was closely negotiated between Burundi and Belgium so that it responds to Burundi’s priorities.
“This is not a Belgian program, but a Belgian-Burundian one. We will sign an agreement in the coming weeks. We recently had a validation workshop in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs,” he said.
Relations between Belgium and Burundi, Ambassador Wimmer said, are based on values. If relations have improved, he adds, it is through the value of dialogue.
“There have been advances in security, human rights and openness which have pushed us to strengthen dialogue,”said Ambassador Wimmer.
He recalled that Burundi and Belgium have a long history of cooperation since independence. He also mentioned “the difficult period of 2015”, which caused cooperation to cease. But Belgium remained on the ground.
Asked about the fact that Belgium still supports the special rapporteur mechanism for human rights in Burundi, Michael Wimmer was clear.
For him, their relations are based on common values: human rights, the rule of law and multilateralism.
“Belgium is not the only one to vote for the special rapporteur mechanism. I think that what we all want is an improvement in the human rights situation, whether in Burundi or in Belgium,” he said.
For Michael Wimmer, the important thing is respect for human rights.
“It is true that Burundi chose not to cooperate with the special rapporteur, which is a sovereign decision. It is not up to me to criticize it, but in any case, my wish is to strengthen exchanges in general between international mechanisms and Burundi to move towards better protection of human rights,” the diplomat said.