Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of the Anglican Church of Burundi on July 5 made an appeal to the U.K. government to restore its bilateral funding to Burundi, one of the poorest and most fragile countries in the world.
The call came when he gave evidence at the International Development Select Committee's enquiry into the U.K. government's decision to end its bilateral aid program for Burundi and shut its Department for International Development (DfID) office in Bujumbura.
Ntahoturi backed his call for funding with a warning that the security in Bujumbura was difficult and the country risked slipping into conflict only two years after the final peace agreement was signed with the last remaining rebel movement. Ntahoturi traveled to the U.K. with the Anglican Alliance which brings together the development, relief and advocacy work of the Anglican family of churches and agencies.
When the U.K. closes its development office in Bujumbura next year, Burundi will be the only country in the Great Lakes and East Africa not receiving U.K. bilateral aid. The U.K. hopes Burundi will trade its way out of poverty through "TradeMark East Africa," an initiative to increase commerce between the countries of the region, part-funded by the British. The archbishop applauded the program but explained that trade, although vital, is no silver bullet.
Giving evidence after the archbishop, Stephen O'Brien, parliamentary undersecretary of state for DfID, justified the government's decision to withdraw aid. He said that the U.K.'s £12 million (US$19.19 million) program was too small to make an impact and would be taken over by other donors. He said that there had been no objections made during the DfID consultations on the proposals and denied that the people of Burundi would suffer as a result of the U.K. government's decision.
The Anglican Church of Burundi and the Anglican Alliance are considering the next steps in their joint efforts to get the U.K. government to reengage with bilateral support for Burundi.