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Dialogue Needed to Address Flawed Burundi Election


Election observers sit in an empty polling station for the presidential elections in Bujumbura, Burundi, July 21, 2015.

The balloting and electoral process have been broadly criticized as non-credible by the East African Community and international partners, including President Obama during his recent visit to Kenya.

Burundi’s controversial presidential election is over, but the political crisis there continues, following the national electoral commission’s announcement that President Pierre Nkrunziza has won with over 69 percent of the vote.

The balloting and electoral process have been broadly criticized as non-credible by the East African Community and international partners, including President Obama during his recent visit to Kenya.

The election, which was boycotted by opposition parties in protest to President Nkurunziza’s intent to run for a third term and the government’s efforts to close media outlets and shut down political space, leaves the East African nation divided and in the throes of continued political turmoil.

Many have criticized the government for violating democratic norms and for going forward with the voting despite the clear absence of conditions necessary for credible elections. The opposition says the president’sre-election bid violated the Arusha Agreement, which ended Burundi’s devastating civil war and remains the bedrock of the country’s fragile stability.

Major donors have suspended assistance and threatened to impose sanctions in response to the discredited electoral process, and to hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuses.

The commission’s announcement on the electoral results culminates a deeply flawed electoral process, one marked by violence and a disregard for the civil and human rights of the citizens of Burundi. The United States is deeply disappointed by President Nkurunziza’s violation of the Arusha Agreement and use of undemocratic means to maintain power through an electoral process that was neither credible nor legitimate.

Moving forward, it is imperative that the Government of Burundi re-engage in a meaningful, serious dialogue with opposition and civil society leaders to reach a consensus on how Burundi may regain the trust and confidence of its citizens and the international community, and prevent even greater instability, economic collapse, refugee flows, and violence.

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