Donors pledge $665 mln for Burundi reconstruction

By Patrick Nduwimana

BUJUMBURA, May 25 (Reuters) - Donors pledged $665 million to Burundi's three-year economic recovery plan, designed to lift the tiny central African country from the ashes of a 12-year civil war.

Of the total, $175 million pledged at a two-day conference in the capital Bujumbura will go towards direct budget support.

Rejuvenating Burundi's moribund economy is one of the biggest challenges facing President Pierre Nkurunziza, who was elected in 2005 after U.N.-backed elections under a peace plan to end the war.

"We are happy to see that the pledges made will cover all the needs for the realisation of our priority plan to fight poverty for the years 2007-2010," Nkurunziza said, adding that he hoped the funds would be disbursed soon.

Nkurunziza's plan aims to boost agriculture, health and education, along with investment in good governance and private sector promotion. It will also help rebuild the country's infrastructure.

Burundi relies heavily on exports of tea, coffee and palm oil.

The top contributors were former colonial ruler Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and France. The United States was near the bottom of the list, but promised to triple its aid to $28.5 million by 2008.

China also cancelled Burundi's total debt to it, a total of 213 million yuan ($28 million). It also pledged to build schools, hospitals and a presidential palace.

Burundi's civil war pitted rebels from the Hutu majority against the dominant minority Tutsi elite.

The country has generally been viewed as an African success story since Nkurunziza took power, but was criticised last year for the jailing and trial of dissidents and for corruption.

The government has since blamed most of that on Hussein Radjabu, the former leader of the ruling party who had wielded enormous power behind the scenes until his arrest last month on charges of trying to destabilise the country.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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