Arusha — Members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) have castigated the economic sanctions against Burundi and called for immediate lifting of the blockade.
The sanctions were imposed by the European Union (EU) in 2015 at the height of internal crisis in the country following President Pierre Nkurunziza's extension of tenure.
The lawmakers wondered why the East African Community (EAC) remained silent on the blockade they said has impacted negatively on the economic growth of its member state.
"Sanctions against Burundi are not fair because they are based on flimsy reasons. Burundi like any other country should be left to enjoy its liberty," said Abdulkadir Aden, an Eala member from Kenya. He likened the sanctions to colonialism, insisting that the EAC should not accept that because Burundi has generally returned to normalcy contrary to reports in the foreign media.
"I see nothing different in Burundi from other EAC states. Let's (EAC bloc) be seen as one and face the modern day colonisers," he told the House on Wednesday evening.
Mr Aden argued that regional leaders should strive to reconcile the warring EAC states rather than sitting back while some key border posts remain closed.
"Reconcile the differences between EAC states. The border closures do not augur well for our integration efforts," he stated as the House debated the Regional Affairs and Regional Integration Report. Burundi lawmaker Pierre Claver Rurakamvye called on the EAC partner states to stand in solidarity with his country so that the sanctions imposed on his country by the EU and other donors are lifted.
He said recent evaluation indicated the security situation in his country has "greatly improved", noting that the blockade against development aid was unacceptable. Paul Musamali, an Eala lawmaker from Uganda, said some regional leaders were not committed to peaceful coexistence, giving an example of the border closure between his country and Rwanda.
According to him, the One Stop Border Post (OSBP) between Burundi and Rwanda,which was built to facilitate movement of people and goods, has remained closed for a long time.