US envoy calls for dialogue in Burundi

Tom Malinoswki (R), US Assistant Secretary of Stae for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor addressing the media in Bujuumbura with US Ambassador to Burundi Dawn Liberi (L)

The United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski has urged authorities in Burundi to resolve their differences through dialogue rather than violence.

Speaking to the press after a series of meetings with government officials, civil society and President Pierre Nkurunziza, the envoy said despite the ongoing violence there was still time for dialogue and still room for compromise.

Mr. Malinowski reminded all parties that “the US and the international community are watching what is happening in Burundi more closely today than at any point in the past”

He stressed that the world still remembers that there have been many tragedies in Burundi’s past and in many of those years the international community was not paying a close attention. The envoy however said “that has changed”.

Malinowski reiterated the need for stakeholders in the crisis to respect the 2000 Arusha Peace Agreement between political players in shaping the future of Burundi and acknowledged the fact that not everyone is going to be satisfied with the agreement.

“The peace accord didn’t fully satisfy everybody, but it did define how to share power in this country. It defined how to build democracy in this country; it defined how to move Burundi past the days of ethnic conflict,” he said, adding that the national consensus forged in Arusha, including term limits, must be preserved.

The US envoy was in the country for a two-day (April 29-30) to see if he can salvage the escalating situation.

Also during his visit, he urged the government to review its decision of shutting down radio stations, arresting civil society activists and intimidating opposition figures, just because they differ in view with the president and the ruling party.

“It is not insurrection to peacefully demonstrate against the decision that the president has made”, he told government officials.

Bujumbura is still under massive chaos as protestors continue to demonstrate their discontent with the president’s decision to go for the third term.

Mr. Malinowski expressed the United States’ concern about training and arming the Imbonerakure, the ruling party CNDD-FDD’s youth wing, to intimidate opposition and civil society. “We’ve all seen that this is happening and it is very dangerous, there needs to be restraint exercised by the leadership”, he said, urging the government not to let the situation get to the point of no return.

Meanwhile, today demonstrations against President Nkurunziza’s 3rd term bid continued in several parts of the capital Bujumbura.

Protestors are still clashing with the police, and the Imbonerakure militants, gunshots and grenade detonations have been reported in several suburbs of the capital, and demonstrators have continued to torch cars.

burning car

Protestors watching a burning truck

More than 500 people have been arrested and locked up in appalling conditions at different police stations around Bujumbura in the crackdown against the protests, says Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, the Chairman of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons, APRODH, one of the organizers of the protests.

He added that some of the arrested protestors have sustained serious injuries but haven’t been allowed access to medical care.