US unleashes sanctions against Burundi officials

Major General Niyombare, attempted coup leader in Burundi

Major General Niyombare, attempted coup leader in Burundi

The United States government is sanctioning four current and former senior government and military officials accusing them of fueling the conflict by committing blatant human rights violations.

US President, Barack Obama has issued a new Executive Order detailing sanctions against Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, the Minister of Public Security and Godefroid Bizimana, Deputy Director General of the National Police. The new order also targets the two masterminds of the May 13 failed coup; Former head of National Intelligence Services (SNR), Major General Godefroid Niyombare, and Former Minister of Defense, Cyrille Ndayirukiye.

The blacklisted quartet is now subject to US visa restrictions and asset freeze.

“I hereby order that all property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in,” the new order stipulates in part.

Alleging the four officials have had a role in the prevailing conflict in Burundi particularly the targeted killings, harassing and abusing women and children, attempting to overthrow a head of state, torture among other things, the new executive order bans them to enter the United States.

President Obama said in the order that the crisis in Burundi not only threatens peace and stability of the East African nation, but also poses a national security threat to the United States.

The order states the situation in Burundi “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”

US has already suspended Burundi from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative, and suspending training cooperation with the Burundian military.

The latest US round of sanctions follow those by the European Union (EU) last month. In October, the EU announced it was freezing assets of, and putting visa restrictions Gervais Ndirakobuca aka Ndakugarika, head of cabinet, Mathias Joseph Niyonzima alias Kazungu, a senior officer in the intelligence services, General Leonard Ngendakumana, former head of military operations in the presidency and one of the leaders of the May 13 foiled coup, and Godefroid Bizimana (same official subjected to US sanctions) the Deputy Director General of the National Police.

Joining the EU and the US, the African Union (AU) recently resolved to take action against persons undermining peace in Burundi.

In the executive order, the US government regrets that some of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s opponents have “resorted to violence against the government, security forces, and civilians, including murders, grenade attacks, and a coup attempt in May 2015,” saying that such actions are contributing to the instability in Burundi.

President Obama invites all parties to reject violence as he pledges to continue to investigate and impose further sanctions against government or opposition leaders inciting violence and obstructing a political resolution to the crisis.

The Burundian crisis was triggered by the ruling party CNDD-FDD’s decision to nominate Nkurunziza for the third term in April. The conflict has since claimed nearly 300 lives and forced about 200,000 out their homes and country.