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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 20:41 GMT
Burundi approves new famine tax
The Burundi government has introduced a temporary tax to help victims of famine in the north-east of the country.

Ministers and lawmakers will pay 8% of their salary, civil servants 2% and unemployed households, a one-off contribution equivalent to 9 US cents.

At least 100 people are reported to have died in the provinces of Muyinga and Kirundo, which were declared famine disaster zones because of drought.

The money collected will go to help feed up to 1m people in the region.

Local authorities said about 80% of Kirundo's population of 600,000 and 50% of Muyinga's 350,000 are threatened by famine.

Unions oppose tax

Although the government approved the "national solidarity tax", Burundi's main labour union has objected to the levy, claiming the cash raised would be diverted to other projects or stolen.

"We have already seen what happens when the government demands forced contributions like this, they are purely and simply diverted," said Pierre-Claver Hajayandi, president of the Confederation of Burundi Unions.

"We want each citizen to be left free to decide his contribution."

Burundians have been appalled by the images of starving people on national television, correspondents say.

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