US announce termination of Burundi Sanctions Program, hail new reforms

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US ends Burundi sanctions program owing to reforms by President Evariste Ndayishimiye; Courtesy Photo

The United States has ended a sanctions program for Burundi, saying circumstances have changed in the East African nation several years after a bloody political crackdown.

US President Joe Biden’s executive order ending the sanctions program noted “significantly decreased violence” in the country. Biden’s new directive issued today, revoked an Executive Order, thereby terminating the Burundi sanctions program and related visa restrictions.

“The United States acknowledges the transition of power following Burundian elections in 2020 and reforms being pursued across multiple sectors. We recognize the progress made by President Ndayishimiye on addressing trafficking in persons, economic reforms, and combatting corruption and encourage continued progress” it reads in part.

Ndayishimiye was elected last year after the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose decision to run for another term in 2015 led to protests and the deadly crackdown.

“As a result, the sanctions and visa restrictions imposed on the eleven individuals designated under this program have been lifted. This decision reflects the changed circumstances in Burundi and President Ndayishimiye’s pursuit of reforms across multiple sectors over the past year.” the statement adds.

Those sanctioned included security officials including Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, who is now Burundi’s prime minister.

Ndayishimiye in a tweet overnight welcomed the U.S. decision.

“It is very important to see the international community appreciating the efforts done by the country to protect human rights,” said Sixte Vigny Nimuraba, chairman of the national commission of human rights.

Recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council suspended the mandate of the commission of inquiry on Burundi.

But some human rights groups have asserted that the situation in the country continues to deteriorate and a gap exists between Ndayishimiye’s promises and reality.

“A robust civil society is critical to building a peaceful, inclusive future for the benefit of the Burundian people and is a key partner in pressing for continued reforms. The United States remains firmly committed to supporting human rights defenders, independent media, and other civil society groups that promote transparency and accountability for those responsible for corruption, human rights violations, and abuses.” Blinken adds.

However, Blinken noted that the US, along with partners and allies, will continue to press the Government of Burundi to improve the human rights situation in the country and use other appropriate tools to do so.

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