Although Burundi is a strong US partner in the fight against terrorism in Somalia, the Obama administration has made known its position in the ongoing Burundian presidential term limit crisis. Early on after the constitutional court ruled on May 4th that President Nkurunziza bid for a third term was constitutional the US dissented.
On May 25th soon after the ruling party, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), nominated the outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate for president, the United States issued a statement characterizing it as a “disregard the term-limit provisions of the Arusha Agreement”. The statement also stated that: “With this decision, Burundi is losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its democracy by establishing a tradition of peaceful democratic transition.”
On June 1st, the US Embassy in Bujumbura released a press statement saying that “President Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term stands in violation of the Arusha Agreement. We continue to strongly urge President Nkurunziza to reconsider his bid to retain power at the expense of the Arusha Agreement and ‎Burundi’s hard-earned stability after a tragic civil war.” The Arusha agreement ended more than a decade long of civil war and gave Burundi its current constitution which stipulates that “The President of the republic is elected by popular vote for a term of five years renewable once.” (Article 95)
On June 2nd, the Department of states’ Spokesperson, Mr. John Kirby said in a press release that “The U.S. Government reiterates its position that the Government of Burundi should adhere to the tenets of the Arusha Agreement, to include the provisions on term limits.”
The Obama administration individually and in conjunction with its European allies has called for peaceful and transparent elections. In the face of violence against unarmed protesters against President Nkurunziza’s third term bid, on May 29th the Obama administration condemned the violence insisting that “Violence and militias have no place in the democratic process.” As a result, the US imposed “visa restrictions against individuals responsible for inciting violence, including those who support the actions ‎of the Imbonerakure.” The Imbonerakure is a militia close to the ruling party accused of committing violence against innocent people opposed to a third term bid by president Nkurunziza.
Members of US Congress Differing views on Burundi
On April 3, Senators Jim Inhofe and Mike Rounds and Congressmen Vern Buchanan, Joe Barton, Ann Kirkpatrick and Tim Walberg traveled to Bujumbura to meet with President Nkurunziza in Bujumbura
On May 25, they issued a common statement endorsing the ruling of the Constitutional Court saying: “… we support the decision of Burundi’s Constitutional Court that ruled that President Nkurunziza could run again. We ask the international community to support that court’s ruling”.
On June 4, Senators Richard J. Durbin, John Boozman, Christopher Coons, Johnny Isakson, Edward Markey, Patrick Leahy, Marco Rubio wrote a letter to President Pierre Nkurunziza, condemning his third term bid with the strongest terms possible: “Your troubling insistence on running for a disputed third term has already caused considerable turmoil for Burundi,”.
Latest on the crisis
President Nkurunziza has delayed elections for a month. This was one the recommendations of the conclusions of the East African Community leaders summit held in Dar-es-Salaam, on May 31st to address the Burundian crisis. Leaders of opposition parties continue to threaten to boycott the elections arguing that Nkurunziza’s third term bid stands in gross violation of article 95 of the constitution.
In an interview with Voice of Americ’s Peter Clottey, the Opposition leader Agatho Rwassa said that the electoral commission should have “… five commissioners who are from different ethnic groups and who belong to different gender,”. Also, “Now, we have two commissioners who have fled the country…Besides this, the three members who remained are all males and from one ethnic group. So it is a team which is unbalanced, which doesn’t fit the condition of such a commission according to the constitution.”