Fifteen years ago, the spirit of the Arusha Agreement transformed the landscape of Burundi by enshrining the conviction that the government must represent and serve all Burundians.
Today Burundi faces a renewed challenge: to end violence and achieve lasting stability by coming together in a dialogue that builds on the spirit of Arusha. This is not the work of one group, but of every person and party.
We call on President Pierre Nkurunziza and his government, on opposition leaders, and on all the people of Burundi to join now in an open, comprehensive, and representative national dialogue to achieve a political solution by consensus that is consistent with Arusha. This is not a challenge for Burundi alone.
The United States reiterates its support for regional leadership, including Uganda and the East African Community, to convene and mediate a political dialogue and urges them to do so soonest. We believe continued high-level engagement by the African Union and the United Nations, and positive action by all states in the region, are critical to bring Burundi back from the path of violence. We remain committed to holding accountable human rights violators and abusers and all those who seek to undermine stability in Burundi.
Last week, President Nkurunziza, in his post-inauguration speech to the nation, addressed the need for unity and an end to violence. He noted the importance of Arusha and the Constitution. But he also injected a call for “security committees” to work together with Burundi’s security agencies. That statement was very worrisome, particularly as it includes the “Imbonerakure” armed youth militia.
An armed Imbonerakure cannot be a part of any credible government-supported process and would undermine efforts to re-establish stability in the country. Over the past year, Imbonerakure violence and intimidation have profoundly increased tensions and aggravated the crisis that has driven almost 200,000 Burundians to take refuge abroad.
To prevent further violence, Imbonerakure and all militias must be disarmed immediately, with the coordination and oversight of the African Union. We call on all Burundians to oppose any further acts of unlawful violence and to join together now, in the spirit of the Arusha Agreement, to reach consensus and a peaceful path forward for Burundi.