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A Setback for Democracy in Burundi


Burundi Political Tensions

Supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza have disregarded the Arusha Agreement’s provisions on presidential term limits and nominated him for re-election in Burundi.

The other shoe has now dropped in Burundi, where supporters of President Pierre Nkurunziza have disregarded the Arusha Agreement’s provisions on presidential term limits and nominated him for re-election. The agreement, the peace deal that ended Burundi’s long civil war, has been the basis of the country’s peace and stability for the past decade.

Protests in the capital Bujumbura flared into violence after the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy party chose Nkurunziza as their presidential candidate for the June 26 balloting. Police and protestors clashed around the city, and authorities used water cannon, tear gas and small arms fire to break up the crowds. At least two demonstrators were confirmed killed, others injured and about 200 arrested, including several prominent civil society and human rights leaders.The government shut down all independent radio stations.

Thousands of Burundians have fled to neighboring Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania in recent weeks to escape intimidation and violence.

The United States deeply regrets the CNDD-FDD’s choice to ignore the term-limit provisions of the Arusha Agreement and re-nominate President Nkurunziza. With this decision, Burundi is losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its democracy by establishing a tradition of peaceful democratic transition.

The United States calls on all parties in Burundi to avoid actions, such as hate speech, that could provoke further violence. We continue to support the Burundian people's peaceful pursuit of their democratic rights and freedoms. We regret this significant missed opportunity, but the hard work of building democratic practices and institutions must continue. In that spirit, we urge all parties to participate in the legislative and national elections and ensure these electoral processes are inclusive, transparent, credible, free and conducted in an environment without intimidation or violence.

We specifically call on the Burundian government to respect the rights of all peaceful political parties and their candidates to campaign, hold meetings and rallies and express their views. We also call on the Burundian government to respect the right of the media to report freely on the electoral process and campaigns. All parties must abide by the non-violence charter signed March 9 and refrain from any violent acts, including hate speech or other provocations, that could feed the climate of fear and instability.

We commend the neighboring countries for their efforts to receive the over 20,000 Burundians who have fled the country, and encourage their continued close coordination with UNHCR and support to provide asylum to those fleeing political violence.

The United States will continue to monitor the situation in Burundi closely and take targeted measures to hold accountable those individuals who participate in, plan, or order violence against the civilian population. Violence has no place in democratic elections.

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