Burundi government cancels Belgian week

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The government of Burundi on Friday cancelled “Belgian Week 2017” which was to take place in the capital Bujumbura from November 11 to 19.

Belgian Week is an important tradition of the Belgian Embassy in Burundi during which they make presentations and exchanges on economic and development co-operation, including the cultural and gastronomic fields.

It is also an opportunity to take stock of the Burundian economy, in particular its energy, infrastructure, transport, agriculture and financial sectors.

The cancellation of the week’s events has been confirmed by the Belgian ambassador in Burundi Bernard Quintin.

In a note to embassy staff, Quintin said he was forced to unwillingly cancel the celebration.

“For reasons beyond our control and by decision of the Burundian authorities, the Belgian Week 2017 is cancelled. I decided then to cancel the reception on the occasion of King’s Day,” he said.

Quintin did not provide further details.

The Burundi government also did not explain why it took the decision.

The last Belgian Week took place in Bujumbura in 2014.

The decision to cancel the 2017 event came a day after the announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it will investigate crimes committed in Burundi since the start of the latest political crisis in 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a third term in contravention of the country’s constitution.

Some diplomats in Bujumbura believe the cancellation of the week is not a “simple coincidence” and “could be linked to the decision of the ICC”.

Earlier, Burundi Justice Minister Aimé Laurentine Kanyana told reporters that Burundi “could never co-operate” with the ICC and was no longer part of it. “Burundi has withdrawn from this court,” she said.

She claimed the European Union, some European countries, the West, some international organisations and the 2015 coup plotters were “behind the ICC’s decision to launch an investigation”. “They manipulate the ICC to overthrow democratically elected institutions,” Kanyana said.

She did not, however, actually mention Belgium.

Relations between Burundi and Belgium have deteriorated since the start of the 2015 crisis.

Burundi authorities accuse the former colonial power of being “behind all the problems this small nation and the Great Lakes region is suffering from”.