United States expresses concern over Burundi’s referendum

The United States expressed its concern about the transparency of the upcoming referendum in Burundi.

“The United Sates is concerned with the May 17, referendum aimed at amending the constitution of Burundi through a non-transparent process. We are especially concerned that the amendments to the constitution will be interpreted as resetting presidential term limits and run counter to the Arusha Agreement. Such efforts by incumbents to enact constitutional changes to remain in power beyond term limits weaken democratic institutions,” the U.S. said in its press statement.

“We denounce the numerous instances of violence, intimidation, and harassment committed against perceived opponents of the referendum. We call on the government to respect Burundi’s international legal obligations regarding the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Free and fair participation in the process is an essential component of a credible referendum.”

The United States recognizes the formidable challenges that the Burundian people have faced throughout their history, and we remain committed to continuing our partnership with Burundi in support of the country’s sustainable peace and development, according to the statement.

Many observers say that the referendum is aimed at extending the term of President Pierre Nkurunziza to stay in power beyond 2020. It is recalled that the people of the country went out to streets when the president expressed his intent to change the constitution to stay on power longer.

Nkurunziza was the Chairman of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), the ruling party, until he was elected as President of Burundi. He was President of Burundi since 2005.