What you need to know:
- US raised the possibility of imposing US visa restrictions “on those responsible for, or complicit in, promoting instability in Burundi through violence.”
- The US said earlier this month it is suspending all training for Burundi’s police and military.
- The Obama administration also threatened to rescind Burundi’s eligibility for the Agoa trade preference programme.
Burundi presidential elections that kicked off on Tuesday morning are illegitimate, the US has said.
The US State Department says President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to go ahead with polls despite protests could alienate his country from the international community.
“The United States warns that elections held under the current conditions in Burundi will not be credible and will further discredit the government,” Mr John Kirby, the Spokesman for the Department, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Voting opened early Tuesday as President Nkurunziza seeks his controversial third term in office.
On Monday evening, shots were heard and two people were reportedly killed during the clashes between government forces and protesters.
The Burundian government termed the protesters as "terrorists".
Repressive actions taken by Burundian authorities in the past few months could lead to US sanctions, Mr Kirby added.
“Attempts by the government of Burundi to deny citizens the ability to choose their leadership freely, without intimidation and threat of violence, will force the United States to carefully review all aspects of our partnership not yet suspended,” the statement said.
It raised the possibility of imposing US visa restrictions “on those responsible for, or complicit in, promoting instability in Burundi through violence.”
The US said earlier this month it is suspending all training for Burundi’s police and military.
The Obama administration also threatened to rescind Burundi’s eligibility for the Agoa trade preference programme.
Critics argue President Nkurunziza’s bid is illegal since he has already served two terms as agreed in the Arusha Accord that ended the country's 10-year civil war in 2006.
But Mr Nkurunziza insists the first term did not count because he was voted in by senators, not voters.
HE COULD WIN
He has also justified his decision by citing a ruling by Burundi’s constitutional court that his bid for re-election does not violate the country’s Constitution.
Mr Nkurunziza could still win the elections although he could be at odds with the African Union which, for the first time in history, did not send observers to the poll, citing poor electoral environment.
The European Union also withdrew its observers, citing the same reason.
On Tuesday, the US agreed with critics who have accused President Nkurunziza of intimidating opponents, some whom have been mysteriously killed.
Four candidates who had taken on Nkurunziza later pulled out of the contest, citing intimidation of their supporters as well as curtailed speech.
It is estimated that 70 people have been killed with about 165,000 others displaced, to Tanzania and Rwanda.
The State Department said it was ready to help bring to justice those involved in political violence and abuses
“The legitimacy of the electoral process in Burundi over the past few months has been tainted by the government’s harassment of opposition and civil society members, closing down of media outlets and political space, and intimidation of voters.