Sunday, December 13, 2015

Burundi Breakdown

The U.S. State Department is now warning Americans not to travel to Burundi as political violence there increases.  A travel warning issued on Sunday urges US citizens in the central African country to leave "as soon as it is feasible to do so".

On Friday, 87 people were killed after three military sites were attacked, Burundi's army said.  Witnesses said that some of those killed were shot execution-style with their arms tied round their backs.  According to reports,  bodies on the streets were almost a daily occurrence in Bujumbura, but the Friday count was the largest number of deaths in one night.

It all started earlier this year, when protests broke out in April after the ruling party announced President Pierre Nkurunziza would seek a third term in office.  The Burundi constitution limits the president to two terms-- but Nkurunziza claims that his first term (in which he was selected President after the end of the civil war by the parliament and not by a popular vote) doesn't count.  Although the country's constitutional court agreed with the President, many of the members of the court were harassed by Nkurunziza supporters and had fled the country prior to the vote.

An attempted coup by Army officers on May 13 failed to depose Nkurunziza, who then returned to Burundi and began purging his government and arresting opposition leaders.  Protests continued however, and over 100,000 people had fled the country by late May, triggering a humanitarian emergency.

Despite objections by the UN, AU, U.S., France, South Africa, Belgium and various other governments, Nkurunziza and the ruling party prevailed in parliamentary elections in June, but these were boycotted by the opposition. 

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