In the absence of payment of arrears, EALA passed a motion to expel Burundi from the East African Community (EAC), the Kenyan newspaper, The East African reported. Angry, Gitega denounced biased information, while acknowledging his debt which he promises to pay off shortly. Why these arrears? What may be the implications? Response elements.
Burundi’s history of arrears in EAC contributions is not new. In recent years, the country has experienced delays in contributions. Already for the fiscal years 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 as well. Millions of dollars in arrears… But, as made by The East African, the announcement of these arrears for the past fiscal year pointed to a risk: the threat of eviction for two debtors, Burundi and South Sudan for that matter.
According to this Kenyan media, during exchanges in the week of June 21, EALA deputies were saddened by the recurring delay in payment of annual dues by Burundi and South Sudan. Arrears which would have resulted in particular in the lack of salaries of these elected representatives. What lead them to formulate this motion to expel these members of the EAC.
The news sent shivers down my spine and the reactions were quick to come. The general secretariat of the EAC, under the responsibility of Burundian Libérât Mpfumukeko, criticized it, stressing that the proposed motion recommended to the Ministerial Council of the community to urge the Summit of Heads of State to implement Articles 132 ( in its paragraph 4) and 146 of the Treaty establishing the EAC.
The first states: “The resources of the budget come from annual contributions, of an equal amount, from member states, regional and international donations as well as other sources which may be identified by the Council”. As for the second, it stipulates that “the Summit may suspend a Member State if this State does not respect the fundamental principles and the objectives of the Treaty, including if it does not respect its financial obligations vis-à-vis the Community during a period of eighteen (18) months ”.
The general secretariat of the EAC will underline, through this note, that “in the current state of things, all the member states of the EAC are in default of obligations, except one only”, before asking: “We do not therefore does not know why the journalist detained two Member States and announced that they would be expelled ”.
The chairman of the commission in charge of communication, trade and investments of the EAC believes that Burundi is not yet at the stage of being expelled from this community. According to Christophe Nduwayo, there is a procedure that must be followed. He mentions in particular article 147 of the Treaty of establishment of the EAC: “The Summit can expel a member state for serious and persistent violation of the principles and the objectives of this treaty by written notification with a notice of 12 months. “
In addition, he recalls that the EALA does not have the latitude to adopt a resolution suspending a member of the EAC according to Article 143 of this Treaty: “Any member state that does not respect its financial obligations and other obligations incumbent upon it by virtue of this Treaty shall be liable to actions decided by the Summit on the recommendation of the Council ”.
For Mr. Nduwayo, Burundi must pay its contributions in order to avoid a risk of suspension. “There is no other room for maneuver.” According to him, the debt is not trivial. He talks about over $ 9 million. While these arrears remain unpaid, he said, there is a lot of community activity that is not being carried out when it was planned. In particular projects which must be financed by these contributions. But also, the debt can be implied by the lack of staff salary, the cancellation of scheduled meetings, etc.
Gitega promises debt reduction
Ezéchiel Nibigira: “We are committed to respecting the commitments, including the financial commitments.”
Reacting in the wake of the information, Gitega spoke of “biased information”, denouncing “unacknowledged aims”. The Minister in charge of ECA Affairs indicated that “this is not the first time that Burundi has been in arrears within this community” and “is not the only country [of the EAC]” to know this. situation. “Since our entry into the EAC, we have always experienced late payment problems. But that did not lead Burundi to leave the community ”, affirms Ezéchiel Nibigira. “This delay is not a problem at all. The author of this information simply had intentions that we do not know ”
For Minister Nibigira, there is nothing special for this year. “We only have one-year arrears, 2019-2020. This is the only year. And this delay is really normal ”. He explains that this delay is due to the costs of the electoral process, totally financed by Burundi. “Everyone is aware, whether from Burundi or the region, except the one who would be in bad faith.” He considers that Burundi rather deserved to be congratulated, given that it has fully funded its budget since 2015. “We are valiant and especially if we can consider the 5 years that we have just passed.”
According to this member of the government, Burundi will pay off its debt as soon as possible. “Because the problem that caused this late payment of arrears is over.” Ezéchiel Nibigira reassures: “We are committed to respecting the commitments, including the financial commitments”.
Burundi has been part of the East African Community since 2007. Its suspension would impact the advantages it enjoys. In particular the free movement of people and goods and major regional projects (railways, roads, etc.)