United States Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region – Thomas Perriello (February 20, 2016)

February 20, 2016

U.S. Ambassador to Burundi Dawn Liberi and the U.S. Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Thomas Perriello met with President Nkurunziza, other senior government officials, and representatives of civil society to continue discussions on inclusive political dialogue, open democratic space, and security in Burundi on February 19 – 21.

The Government of the United States welcomes President Nkurunziza’s condemnation in Cibitoke of hate speech or violent language on February 20 and his assertion that the perpetrators of such language must be sanctioned.

The United States further welcomes President Nkurunziza’s public statement that all Burundians, including those who have fled the country, must participate in inclusive political dialogue regarding the path to peace for Burundi.

The U.S. Ambassador to Burundi and the U.S. Special Envoy also embraced an opportunity on February 20 in Cibitoke to join the people in a communal effort to lay the foundation for a new school.  The Government of the United States continues its solidarity with all Burundians who seek the chance to educate and raise their children in a secure, pluralist Burundi.

The U.S. Government recognizes the Government of Burundi’s authorization this week for two private radio stations to re-start broadcasting, but urges the Government of Burundi both to permit all private radio stations in Burundi to operate, and to create the conditions for safe return of independent journalists without further delay. Such action would confirm that the government is committed to freedom of the media as guaranteed by Burundi’s constitution and

the Arusha Accord. Such action would confirm, too, not just the rights of journalists, but of all Burundians to have access to diverse media.

The U.S. Government re-emphasizes to the Government of Burundi the importance of taking further steps like those mentioned above during the next two weeks. The expected visits during this period of the Secretary General of the United Nations and of several African chiefs of state attest to the importance of moving quickly toward the reconciliation of all Burundians regardless of political orientation. Restoration of peace calls for immediate forward movement through the dialogue process facilitated by the East African Community.

The next two weeks therefore present a clear crossroads for the Government of Burundi. During this period, it will receive top delegations from the United Nations and the African Union, before the summit of the East African Community. The U.S. Government urges the Government of Burundi not to miss this opportunity to move forward on the path towards restoring democratic space, allowing independent monitors of the African Union, and accepting a date by which to resume the regional dialogue. Now is the time to take real steps to restore both the spirit and the letter of the Arusha Accord.