Political tensions continue to rise in Burundi ahead of June’s presidential election.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon at protestors gathered in Bujumbura April 17 to oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza’s possible running for re-election. At least 65 demonstrators have been detained and charged with “participation in an insurrectionary movement” and face possible life sentences.
The Arusha Accords peace deal, signed in 2000, ended a decades-long civil war in the Central African nation and limits the president to two terms. Nkurunziza has yet to declare whether he’ll run or not. Opposition leaders predict more protests if he announces his candidacy before the May 9 registration deadline.
At least 8,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent weeks to escape intimidation and violence, including by the youth militias of the ruling party. Burundi has struggled through years of war, which claimed tens of thousands of lives. Strengthening its political stability is essential toits future and that of the Great Lakes region.
The United States is deeply concerned by the rising tensions in Burundi. We call on all parties there to play a constructive and peaceful role in this electoral process and to refrain from any acts, including hate speech, violence, or other provocations, that could feed the climate of fear and instability. The national police, the Burundian military and all security force personnel must provide security in an impartial manner throughout the electoral process and to protect civilians from intimidation and other abuses.
The United States will continue to monitor the situation in Burundi closely and take steps, including, where appropriate, by denying U.S. visas to individuals who order, plan or participate in acts of violence.Violence has no place in democratic elections. We call on the government there to hold all perpetrators accountable in accordance with due process of law.
The United States continues to support the Burundian people's peaceful pursuit of their democratic rights and freedoms, and we reiterate our support for peaceful, free, transparent, timely and credible elections in Burundi.