E.A Live News

U.S.: Burundi Must Reopen Social Media

Samantha Power in a chat with Burundian soldiers a few years ago (Internet photo)

The United States has expressed fury over Burundi government’s decision to shut down social media platforms, visit web http://cehurd.org/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/3rd-party/wpml.php Facebook, http://ceris.ca/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-popup/views/meta-behavior.php WhatsApp and Twitter, http://covintec.cl/wp-content/plugins/contact-form-7/includes/config-validator.php saying the development signals a “country moving in the wrong direction.”

In her statement issued Wednesday night, U.S. envoy to United States Samantha Power did not mince her words in blasting President Pierre Nkurunziza whom he accused of being “consistently dismissive of the risks inherent in his privileging his preservation of power over the critical need to respect the terms of the Arusha compact.”

“Burundi’s leaders must end their complacency and now find ways to avoid violence and decide on how best to ensure elections are peaceful, credible and transparent. The actions the Burundian government has taken this week undermine this goal,” said Power.

Header advertisement

Protests against Nkurunziza entered the fifth day on Thursday, with clashes being reported in Bujumbura.

In a massive crackdown on communication outlets, Nkurunziza ordered Police to shut down private radio stations before descending on social media groups which were equally blocked.

Power said in her statement: The United States condemns the ongoing political violence taking place in Burundi and the government’s crackdown on media, civil society, and the political opposition this week, including reports today that the government has taken steps to restrict access to the internet and social media.”

She added: “These actions – and those we have seen over the past year – point to a country that has made great progress but sadly is now moving in the wrong direction. Today we see a Burundi seized by fear and at severe risk of deadly violence.”

“We call on the government to open a dialogue with members of the opposition and civil society on steps to ensure a credible and inclusive electoral process. We call on the Burundian government to respect the rights of its citizens to gather peacefully, to allow political parties and candidates to campaign, and to ensure an open and transparent debate in which diverse views can be aired. This extends to media and its right to report freely on the election process without fear of intimidation, censorship or arrest,” said Power.

From 1993 to 2006, Burundi saw civil war driven by ethnic tensions. The 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Accords provided a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

United States’ consistent criticism of the Burundi president’s action is likely to motivate the opposition to continue pushing for the rejection of Nkurunziza’s third term in office.

U.S. Government which provides millions of dollars to Burundi in aid could as well use its leverage to reign in on Nkurunziza.

Power said the United States is deeply troubled by the arrest of hundreds of protesters and civil society leaders, and the shuttering of independent media outlets.

“These arrests and harassment of peaceful protesters and the media must stop. We call on the government to grant UN human rights staff access to hospitals and prisons to ensure the needs of those injured and detained are being addressed and their rights respected. We also call on the opposition to participate constructively in the democratic process and to shun violence,” she observed.

“We reiterate our intention to hold accountable anyone on any side of Burundi’s political debate responsible for fomenting violence. The United States is monitoring the situation closely and will take targeted measures, including by denying U.S. visas, to hold accountable those individuals who participate in, plan, or order violence against the civilian population.”

Security Council

The UN Security Council also met Wednesday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Burundi and that it heard disturbing reports about developments on the ground.

These include the deaths of two people, close to three hundred arrested, and 22,000 refugees flowing into neighbouring countries.

Council members expressed deep concern regarding the escalation of violence and political tension in the country as well as the restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.

Earlier this month, the Council also expressed its determination to consider action against those who actively facilitate violence, including by distributing weapons to youth groups.

Power said President Nkurunziza and the people of Burundi still have an opportunity to choose peace and to choose progress.

“Burundi’s leaders must recognize the valuable role that any political opposition, civil society, and media play in a healthy, open and inclusive democracy and must make space for their constructive participation,” she said.

Comments

Header advertisement
To Top