US removes sanctions on Burundi

Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye. He is in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for a three-day state visit.           PHOTO | AFP

The US government Thursday removed sanctions placed on Burundi six years ago, crediting elections, a fall in violence, and reforms by President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

President Joe Biden revoked the sanctions that targeted 11 people in the central African country, mostly military and security officials including then-public security minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, who was the number two in the government.

The situation in Burundi "has been significantly altered by events of the past year, including the transfer of power following elections in 2020, significantly decreased violence, and President Ndayishimiye’s pursuit of reforms," Biden's executive order said."The United States recognizes the positive reforms pursued by President Ndayishimiye, while continuing to press the Government of Burundi to improve the human rights situation," said Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the US Treasury, which administers sanctions.Burundi descended into violence in April 2015, after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a bid for a third consecutive term in office, despite concerns over the legality of such a move. That led to the deaths of 1,200 Burundians and sent 400,000 fleeing the country.US and UN officials said at the time that they feared the country could plunge into civil war marked by genocide, and those hit with sanctions were considered key instigators of the violence and human rights abuses.Nkurunziza held a lock on power until June 2020, when he died just weeks after the election of his designated successor, Ndayishimiye."We recognise the progress made by President Ndayishimiye on addressing trafficking in persons, economic reforms, and combatting corruption and encourage continued progress," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken."Today’s action underscores that US sanctions are responsive to changes in circumstance and may be lifted following positive steps."