Handicap International closes Burundi Program

Handicap International, with its new name “Humanity & Inclusion”, which operates in Burundi since 1992, has been forced to stop its activities in the Burundian country following the Burundi government to regulate the foreign NGOs with new measures, reports Web Wire

Handicap International no longer considers itself able to carry out its projects due to the Burundian government’s  recent decision towards international NGOs , in particular, the obligation to keep a record of its employees’ ethnicities.

The government of Burundi suspended the actions of all international NGOs present in Burundi on October 1, 2018. The primary condition for their restart is, among other things, a plan to set up ethnic quotas for their staff.

Burundi government has called on all suspended NGOs for re-registration ,  in order to resume their activities in Burundi, but unfortunately, some of these NGOs failed to comply with the new Burundi regulation on these foreign NGOs

According to Web Wire, Handicap International has tried to respond to the government’s requests in accordance with the humanitarian principles and its values and has engaged in discussions with the government to this end, without finding a solution.

During a meeting on December 24, 2018, the Burundian Ministry of the Interior confirmed that the conditions set by the government were “ non- negociable .” and that if they were not met by December 31, 2018, Handicap International would not be allowed to resume its activities.

Ethnicity balance ‘non- negotiable’ according to Handicap International.

Committed to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence, Handicap International considers that the obligation to record the ethnic composition  of its staff and to communicate this information to the authorities constitutes a red line that it will not cross.

“One of the documents required by the authorities was to be able to ethnically record our staff, even though ethnicity does not appear on their own identity papers. The obligation to give the ethnic origin of our staff is very clearly a red line for Handicap International. So we regretfully took the decision to leave the country”, Handicap International said 

The association always acts in compliance with the laws of the countries in which it operates and considers the practice of positive discrimination acceptable when it comes to giving access to employment to groups known to be ignored because of their gender or disability, for example, reports the same magazine.

The ethnic identification process and its corresponding annual audit imposed by the Burundian authorities may be prerequisites for farther-reaching measures whose scope we do not know at this stage.

Web Wire reports that Handicap International will not be complicit in any form of ethnic discrimination. The association accepts the consequences of this decision, and with great regret is closing its program in Burundi, after 26 years of presence and intervention in the fields of health, rehabilitation, education, protection, socio-economic integration and support to associations.

The Association deplores the fact that the capacity of NGOs to act is increasingly being reduced in this country, which is among the poorest in the world, to the detriment of the most vulnerable Burundian populations.