Burundi has decided to suspend the activities of most foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) until they comply with a new law imposing tighter controls on their operations.
Silas Ntigurirwa of the National Security Council (CNS) said most of the estimated 130 foreign NGOs in the country “were not compliant” with a January 2017 law governing their operations.
“The CNS has decided to suspend all activities of these NGOs for a period of three months dating from October 1, to allow the institutions in charge of them to verify their compliance with the laws and rules in place,” he said on national television late Thursday.
They would only be allowed to resume operations if they conformed to the new law, which was denounced by NGOs for placing tight controls on finances, imposing administration fees and staff ethnic quotas.
With Burundi experiencing foreign currency shortages due to European Union sanctions, the law ordered international charities and rights groups to keep their accounts in foreign currency at the central bank.
It also asked NGOs to follow national ethnic quotas, hiring 60 percent Hutu staff and 40 percent Tutsi staff — after accusations by the majority Hutu ruling CNDD-FDD that they employ mainly Tutsis.
The NGOs operating in Burundi, mostly European, provide much-needed services in the areas of health, education, nutrition, agriculture and energy.
Their operations are the main means of getting aid into the country after financial lines to the government were cut as it plunged into political crisis in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza sought a fiercely contested third term in office.
Turmoil since then has claimed at least 1,200 lives and has forced 400,000 to flee their homes, triggering an investigation by the International Criminal Court, which Burundi last year became the first nation to leave.
On September 5, a UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi published a report accusing Nkurunziza of engaging in hate speech fuelling crimes against humanity.
A diplomatic source in Brussels said the decision was “shocking” and that most European Union projects, worth around 150 million euros ($170 million), would be affected by the decision.