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‘Don’t make Burundi an aid orphan’, archbishop tells Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, July 29, 2011 August 3, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Burundi, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances.
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Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi appeared before the House of Commons’ International Development Committee urging a rethink of the Department for International Development’s (DfID) closure of its aid programme in Burundi.

Cutting support to Burundi would make it an “aid orphan,” the Archbishop said on 5 July, as Western support for Africa has been cut sharply in the wake of the global economic downturn.

Committee chairman, the Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce, the member for Gordon (Lib-Dem) opened the meeting asking if the Archbishop could explain why the British government would end support for Burundi’s poor. “Given the fact that Burundi has absolutely clear developmental needs, right across the spectrum by almost any criteria you care to select, why do you think the UK Government decided that it should bring the programme in Burundi to a close and, at the same time, increase the contribution it is making to all the neighbouring countries?,” Mr Bruce asked.

Archbishop Ntahoturi responded that this “question actually is at the core purpose of our visit.”

The DfID has proposed ending its £12 million in aid to the East African nation. Archbishop Ntahoturi noted that “in Burundi is a lot of money” even though the total “given to Burundi by UK standards was relatively small.” It was nonetheless a necessary component in the democratic and economic redevelopment of the country.

Burundi was one of the “poorest countries” in the East African Community the Archbishop said and was “also coming out of a 15 year war.” “We are still suffering from the impact and consequences of war” that ended two years ago, the Archbishop said.

However the peace was fragile. “I am worried,” the Archbishop said, by what he was hearing from the poor that “people are not at peace. The signs that we see show that, if we are not careful, there might be another war in Burundi, because most of the young people who were demobilised do not have jobs.”

Patrick Watt of Save the Children testified before the committee that Burundi made good use of the funds given by the DfID. “Burundi has scored fairly highly” and its programmes provided “value for money” based upon DfID criteria for aid, Mr Watt said. “It was difficult to see why Burundi was having British aid withdrawn.”

Ending British aid will mean “almost 70,000 students-children who will not be able to go to school. That would mean almost 45,000 women who were helped by the maternity services, who will not be assisted. That will mean that justice, in a country that has been at war, the police and others will not be accompanied and not be helped.”

The member for Watford, Mr Richard Harrington (Cons.) questioned the Archbishop’s figures, asking how the withdrawal of £12 million would cause such chaos. The Archbishop responded that “the World Bank, the UN, the EU, the French, the Belgians and the Luxembourgers have never decided, have not told us, that they will take over from what DfID was doing.”

Sweden has “also withdrawn its aid, and other donors are thinking” of pulling out, the Archbishop said. “When the programmes are cut off, there is a void. That void will affect the wellbeing of the people,” Archbishop Ntahoturi said.