US denounces rights violations in Burundi

A burning road barricade in Bujumbura on election day July 21.

A burning road barricade in Bujumbura on election day July 21.

The United States is concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi, US envoy has said. Speaking to the press in Bujumbura on Saturday at the end of his two-day visit in the country, Tom Malinowski, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, expressed concern about continuing arbitrary arrests, the increasing number of reported disappearances and allegations of torture committed against members of the opposition.

“My message to the government was that the situation remains grave in our view. There is no question that human rights abuses are continuing, we have seen continued detentions of people who are perceived as sympathizers of the opposition, increasing reports of people being disappeared, many credible allegations of torture in detention,” he said.

Mr. Malinowski urged the Burundian government against unlawful arrests cautioning not all critics are involved in armed rebellion. “There have also been serious acts of violence by the armed groups but it is clearly not the case that all people being persecuted and detained by the government had been engaged in violence,” the US envoy said. The US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor also chided the Burundian government’s reluctance to engage in meaningful dialogue with the opposition to end the deadly violence.

“The government cannot say one thing to the international community and then a different thing to its own people. If the government is indeed committed to dialogue, it has to be delivering message to its own people that is supportive to dialogue,” he noted adding that “denouncing everybody, from the Catholic Church, the civil society, the media, the opposition, foreign countries as enemies of the people of Burundi, is not going to get us to a successful dialogue, and it doesn’t suggest sincerity on the part of the government.”

Burundi has been gripped with a deadly political crisis since April last year when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his controversial third term triggering mass protests.