An adviser to Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has described a donation of 10 donkeys by the French embassy to villagers in Gitega province an “insult to the nation”, news agency AFP reports.
The agriculture ministry ordered the animals, which were bought from neighbouring Tanzania as part of a local NGO’s project to help women and children transport agricultural products, water or wood, to be quarantined.
Agriculture Minister Deo Guide Rurema asked a local administrator to “facilitate the immediate withdrawal of all donkeys that have been distributed… without respecting the technical procedure of the distribution of exotic animals”.
Gabby Bugaga, spokesman for the Senate president, tweeted that the French were “taking us for donkeys”.
“Be honest, is the donkey a symbol of a quality – or a flaw?” he wrote.
French Ambassador Laurent Delahousse has however praised the animals calling them a “Land Cruiser of the animal kingdom”.
He defended the project saying that “all procedures were respected”, and pointed out a similar project financed by Belgium in the eastern Ruyigi province had not been met with similar reaction.
AFP reports a European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Burundi was hitting back at France over a statement criticising a referendum earlier this month which reformed the constitution, allowing President Nkurunziza to seek another two terms in office and remain in power until 2034.