Ambassador Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations has visited Burundi this 8th April 2014 with two main messages from the U. S President Barack Obama.-Diane Uwimana
“My government was very disturbed by the events of March 8, when fighting broke out in connection with two separate events sponsored by opposition political parties”, underlines the Permanent Representative and Member of Barack Obama Cabinet, Ambassador Samantha Power during her Press conference held at the US Embassy this Tuesday afternoon. She indicates that these events seem reflective of broader erosion, shrinking of political space for opposition and independent voices in Burundi – including new and restrictive media and assembly laws. “An environment of free and open dialogue is essential, especially as the government considers changes to Burundi’s post-war constitution. Efforts to undermine the Arusha consensus on power-sharing and political inclusion will put a hard-won peace at risk,” she adds. She points out that the United Nations is worried about the political tension which can run high and create violence in the country. “As Burundi approaches this critical election, we call on the government to respect the constitutional rights of its citizens, including that of opposition parties to express themselves freely and hold peaceful gatherings. We also urge the government and the opposition to reject violence and engage in the political process in a civil and non-confrontational manner. Burundi’s continued stability depends on maintaining a political climate in which all people can freely express their views, organize on behalf of their interests, and have a say in how they are governed”, adds the Ambassador. Moreover, she declares that all institutions and individuals should respect the constitution and all laws and rights. Therefore, they may preach tolerance and populism. Concerning the third term sought by the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, Ambassador Power doesn’t hide her face: “The President has a tremendous legacy which he has built with his people since 2005 until today. We believe that his legacy should be one of the respects of the constitution, the mother of democracy in Burundi”, she urges.
US Government committed to supporting Burundian elections in 2015
Ambassador Samantha Power met with Burundi President, political Party leaders, Civil Society and Burundian Youth to discuss how to prevent the country from backsliding on progress made since the end of the civil war in 2005. During her visit, she has announced the commitment by the United States Government to provide an additional $ 7.52 million to support Burundi’s effort to hold credible, inclusive and peaceful elections in 2015. “This additional funding brings the total US Government support for Burundian elections to over $ 10million”, she points out. Ambassador Power expressed concern about increasing signs of politically-motivated violence in Burundi and the shrinking of space for democratic activity. “Since 2012, the United States Government has provided support for transparency and accountability in the electoral process through technical support for elections administration and is engaging key government and non-government stakeholders to promote dialogue in the electoral process”, she highlights. Looking towards the 2015 elections, the US Government is working with civil society actors to empower young leaders in their communities, support livelihood development and increase the role of women and girls in peacebuilding and mediation. “The US Government is providing support and training to key human rights’ institutions and independent media to promote monitoring and objective reporting during this important period”, she concludes.
It is worth indicating that the Ambassador was accompanied by the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield , Congresswoman Karen Bass of California; Stephen J. Rapp , Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice and Michael Gerson , Senior Fellow at the ONE Campaign and Columnist for the Washington Post.