Cut Foreign Aid to Burundi Until They Allow Free Press

Target: President Barack Obama

Goal: Stop sending foreign aid to Burundi unless it allows freedom of the press

Thanks to the First Amendment, Americans know that we will always have basic freedom of speech. However, the people of Burundi, an East African country bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania, and the Congo, recently had that right taken away. Both the Burundian Parliament and Senate passed a bill that severely restricts the freedom of the Burundi press.

The Burundi media has uncovered extensive corruption, violence, and political assassinations. In 2011 alone, Human Rights Watch reported at least 160 political assassinations in Burundi, many of which were uncovered by the independent Burundi media.

Most of Burundi’s budget comes from foreign aid. International governments have also been instrumental in ensuring that Burundi had free speech in the first place. Like Rwanda, Burundi has a long history of civil war between the Hutus and the Tutsis. The United Nations interfered in 2004 and helped Burundi keep the peace by setting up a functional democracy. Part of the stipulation of the United Nations’ aid was that the Burundi government allows freedom of the press.

Foreign countries can force the Burundi government to allow free speech by cutting aid to the country. For most government officials, poverty would be considered an even bigger threat than the media. Please urge President Barack Obama to stop sending foreign aid to Burundi unless the Burundi Parliament and Senate rescind this bill.


Dear President Obama,

As Americans, we are thankful for the fact that the First Amendment has been upheld since its inception. However, the people of Burundi are not so lucky: the Burundi Parliament and Senate just overwhelmingly passed a bill that severely restricts freedom of press.

Burundi may be one of the countries that needs freedom of press the most. In 2011 alone, Human Rights Watch reported at least 160 political assassinations, many of which were uncovered by Burundi journalists. Burundi had a civil war between the Hutus and the Tutsis that lasted over 30 years, and in 2004 the United Nations stepped in to create a functional democracy for the ravaged country, with one of the stipulations being freedom of press.

We know that your foreign aid budget, which is expected to double by 2015, was created with the best intentions. However, given that only 2% of Burundis have access to bank accounts, it is likely that some of that aid is not being allocated into restructuring the economy as intended. A government that doesn’t allow the people freedom of press is unlikely to provide them with viable work to bring them out of poverty.

We urge you to cut foreign aid to Burundi until the Burundi Parliament and Senate restore freedom of press to Burundi’s citizens. Hopefully then Burundi government officials would find poverty an even greater adversary than they believe their citizens to be.


[Your Name Here]

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One Comment

  1. Here is the link to the original petition that I drafted on behalf of African Public Radio and Eric Manirakiza. Please sign there and help us make a change!

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