US warns against political violence in Burundi
What you need to know:
- The US ranks as the largest bilateral donor to Burundi.
- The US specifically called on the Burundian government to respect the rights of opposition parties to campaign.
Burundi risks losing "an historic opportunity" for a peaceful democratic transition, the United States declared on Saturday, warning it will bar entry to the US for those implicated in political violence.
Washington's words are likely to carry weight in Burundi, one of Africa's poorest countries. Ambassador Dawn Liberi pointed out last week that the US ranks as the largest bilateral donor to Burundi, providing $50 million a year for health, nutrition and social and economic programmes.
Burundi also receives US military aid, particularly related to its participation in Amisom, the African Union mission in Somalia.
The US "deeply regrets" the decision by Burundi's ruling party to nominate President Pierre Nkurunziza for a third term in office, a State Department spokeswoman said on Saturday.
That move disregards the two-term limit set 15 years ago in the Arusha Agreement that ended a bloody civil war, the US statement said.
Burundi is experiencing growing tension, with thousands of its citizens fleeing the country out of fear of a renewal of the Hutu-Tutsi violence in the 1990s that took an estimated 300,000 lives.
Due to President Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term, "Burundi is losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its democracy by establishing a tradition of peaceful democratic transition," the US said on Saturday.
But "the hard work of building democratic practices and institutions must continue," the US added.
"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 threats, intimidation, or violence."
The US specifically called on the Burundian government to respect the rights of opposition parties to campaign, hold rallies and express their views. The media must be able to report freely on the political process, the US added.
"Targeted measures," including denial of US visas, will be taken against those deemed responsible for violence against civilians, the State Department warned.
Perpetrators of violence further risk being held accountable in a court of law, the US said.