- The German cooperation agency GTZ today announced it was to "re-establish the bilateral cooperation with Burundi" by mid-March this year. Germany abandoned aid to its ex-colony in 1996, "following the escalating civil war" and evacuation of its personnel the year before.
Jens Heine of GTZ today announced the return of German aid to the war-ravaged country, following a decision by the German government. According to Mr Heine, GTZ staff were forced to leave Burundi in 1995 due to concerns over their safety. Since then, GTZ projects were run by local staff for about one year until the German government in 1996 decided to cancel all aid operations in Burundi as a result of the July military coup.
Since the Burundian peace process gained momentum after the Arusha Agreement of 2000, the German government has planned its return. According to Mr Heine, German and Burundian government representatives had held their first meetings aiming at restoring the cooperation in Switzerland in 2001; a meeting where also GTZ had been represented.
An upcoming return of German aid had already been officially announced by the German government at the Burundi donor conference in January in Brussels. The GTZ announcement today marks the first step in the implementation of the many promises given at the Brussels meeting.
- Starting in March 2004, the GTZ announcement said, the German government will be again present in Burundi "with three projects of bilateral cooperation." The cooperation programme included a project to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the reintegration of returning refugees and a project to reconstruct the Burundian judiciary. "More programmes are being planned," Mr Heine added.
According to the Berlin Foreign Ministry, the framework of the re-establishment of German development aid has however already been laid down in bilateral government talks. In addition to health and AIDS issues, focus was to be on demobilisation and reintegration of armed forces, rural development, water supply, democracy and civil society with special interest in justice and human rights.
According to the German agency, GTZ already has experiences and contacts to build on in Burundi. Since 2001, the agency has been part of the multilateral aid in the country, through operations run by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN refugees' agency UNHCR and the European Commission, which administers an all-European development aid plan for Burundi.
Ties between Burundi and Germany traditionally have been strong, following the German colonisation of the territory in the 1890s. Burundi - together with Rwanda and Tanganyika - was part of German East Africa but was transferred to Belgium in 1918. After Burundi's independence in 1962, the country established close ties with Germany.
These ties, however, "were strongly strained by the military coup" of 1996, according to the German Foreign Ministry. Relations hit rock bottom in March 2000, when the German embassy in Bujumbura was closed "for security reasons." The restoration of friendly ties since then has been a slow process, which was however boosted by the Arusha Agreement.
GTZ and other sources in Berlin give no information on the size of German aid planned for Burundi this year. Plans still seem to be too immature. Last year, German humanitarian to Burundi only totalled euro 2.5 million, according to the Berlin Foreign Ministry.
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