U.S. Ambassador and Assistant Secretary of State Speak with University Students at U.S. Embassy

May 1, 2015

On the evening of April 30, U.S. Ambassador Dawn Liberi and Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski visited the over 600 university students seeking shelter and security beneath the walls of the American Embassy in Bujumbura. They listened to the students recount the hardship they face following the government’s decision to close the university campus, leaving them nowhere to turn. Ambassador Liberi and Assistant Secretary Malinowski welcomed the students and congratulated them for their peacefulness and discipline in cooperating with the police and embassy staff. They engaged the students in free conversation regarding the continuing need for democracy, human rights and economic development in Burundi.

The Embassy of the United States of America calls upon the Government of Burundi to address the situation of these Burundians who now find themselves unable to return to the university campus. They are Burundian citizens currently encamped in open air in front of the American Embassy. The government’s decision to close down the university has caused unnecessary and unwarranted suffering to those who sought only to express themselves politically. Freedom of expression and assembly are core values to all democracies, including Burundi.

Those who now seek safety at the U.S. Embassy will not be asked to leave so long as they remain peaceful and calm. Their plight reflects the desperate circumstances of Burundians facing the current political crisis brought on by a lack of dialogue, and by recent decisions of the government to restrict the media, communication, and freedom of political expression that are the rights of all citizens in a democratic society. These recent decisions have only decreased safety, security and civil liberty for all Burundians.

The United States reiterates the path of dialogue, peace and non-violence is the only path through which Burundi can find its way out of the current political crisis. The United States calls upon the Government of Burundi to reopen the University and to immediately engage in substantial dialogue with Burundian society to chart a return to the peace and stability created by Arusha. Having struggled to build a peaceful democratic society over the past ten years, Burundians deserve no less.