By Millicent Zighe
The United States has renewed sanctions against Burundi officials accused of fuelling conflict in the country.
In a statement released on the White House website, President Donald Trump expressed grave concerns over the current political situation in the Central African country.
“The situation in Burundi, marked by killing and other violence against civilians, unrest, incitement to violence and significant political repression which threatens the peace, security, and stability of Burundi and the region. This continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” the statement read.
Executive Order 13712, first issued in November 22, 2015 by then President Barrack Obama, sanctions two individuals from the government and two individuals accused of attempting to overthrow Nkurunzinza’s government. They include Alain Guillaume Bunyoni (Minister for Public Security), Deputy Director General of the National Police Godefroid Bizimana; and Godefroid Niyombare who was responsible for organising the coup attempt in May 2015 alongside his deputy Cyrille Ndayirukiye. Niyombare and Ndayirukiye were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the coup.
All business assets of the four individuals remain frozen essentially preventing them from doing business with American companies. Additionally, they are restricted from travelling to the United States by means of State Department visa bans.
The decision to extend sanctions on the country has previously been lauded by human rights defenders including Human Rights Watch who deemed it a necessary warning to the leaders.
“The US sanctions send a strong message that impunity and serious crimes are not acceptable. We hope these sanctions will deter senior Burundi officials from ordering, carrying out or tolerating serious abuses in future,” Carina Tertsakian, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said when the sanctions were put in place four years ago.
United States has been critical of Nkurunzinza’s regime ever since he was re-elected for a third term in 2015.
His controversial win ultimately plunged the country into a turmoil. An estimated 400,000 people have since fled the country to neighbouring countries in an attempt to escape the violence.
The United States has also been at the forefront in pushing for dialogue in the Burundi. Recently, the country’s representative to the United Nations, Jonathan R. Cohen expressed concerns over the stalled Burundian dialogue and the way the talks broke down. African Union Commissioner Smail Chergui has since recommended reopening of the collapsed talks something that Burundi government has been against.
Other organizations which have previously imposed restrictive measures on the four Burundians include the European Union. They stand accused by the EU of undermining democracy and obstructing the search for a political solution to the crisis in the country.
Like the U.S., the EU has stressed that dialogue is the only way to a lasting political solution.
As of November, it is still unclear whether the EU will extend the sanctions after its expiry in October 2019.