US removes sanctions on Burundi

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The Untied States cancelled sanctions on Burundi, citing reforms by President Evariste Ndayishimiye (AFP/TCHANDROU NITANGA)

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

President Joe Biden issued an executive order revoking the sanctions announced in November and December 2015 that targeted eight powerful military and security officials in the central African country, including then-Public Security Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, who was the number two official 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 across multiple sectors," Biden's 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 in the country and hold accountable those responsible for violations and abuses,” said Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the US Treasury, which administers sanctions.

Burundi had 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 move led to the deaths of 1,200 Burundians and send 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 the eight 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.

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