Political Dialogue Between the International Community [U.S./European Union/Swizerland] and the Government (May 12, 2015)

May 12, 2015

The United States congratulates the government of Burundi for today’s discussions which we are happy to join with the EU and the Swiss. Nevertheless we remain greatly concerned by the current crisis in the country. We are disappointed by the continuing violent suppression of demonstrations against the candidacy of President Pierre Nkurunziza for a third term. Amidst this increase in violence, refugee flows into Rwanda, Tanzania, and the DRC have skyrocketed to over 50,000 people. Even now, estimated 15-20,000 persons are encamped on the Tanzanian border seeking boat transport from Burundi.

The United States condemns all acts of violence and calls on the government of Burundi to allow peaceful demonstrations as allowed by the constitution. We call for an immediate end to the use of violent force by police against peaceful protests and the political intimidation, threats, and violence by all armed militia. Too many have lost their lives already.

The reports of closure of radio stations and blocking of social media have only increased the instability and violence. Any intimidation of local and international media is not acceptable and is contrary to democratic process. The United States remains concerned about the treatment of prisoners detained during these protests.

The United States calls for the Government of Burundi to open the political space to support conditions which will be favorable to holding elections. The steps that need to be taken to open this space are clear: Free detained demonstrators; reopen independent radio stations and permit their nationwide broadcast; allow total access to social media; and respect freedom of assembly,expression, association for all Burundians. Finally, freedom of the press is crucial to any democracy and must be championed here.

We are supportive of the agreements made today to allow parties to establish campaigns and participate in political debates and activities. In order for free, fair and transparent elections to take place, the government must re-establish the proper conditions for their peaceful conduct.International observers are critical to this effort and we anticipate hosting a full, independent U.S. election observation mission including the Carter Center.

We welcome the first steps toward an elections dialogue between the government, opposition and regional actors fostered by the United Nations and look forward to the outcome of the EAC heads of state meetings this week in Dar-Es Salaam. We are confident that Burundi will participate fully and in full-faith in this regional dialogue.

Burundi’s own laws and international obligations grant Burundians the right to peaceful assembly and expression, and the government must let them speak. We strongly believe that the protesters can communicate their message without anger and violence, and that the government should permit peaceful protests, marches and dissent.

The United States urges the government, civil society and all citizens to come together under the auspices of the Arusha Accords to conduct these elections in peace. The people of Burundi desire and deserve the democratic society, peace and stability which they can achieve through free, fair, credible and transparent elections. Their voices must be heard. Let them speak and participate fully in the electoral process.