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Chairman Risch Statement on Burundi’s Upcoming General Elections

BOISE, Idaho – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released the following statement ahead of Burundi’s May 20th general elections:

“In January, reports that President Nkurunziza would not stand for a fourth term raised the possibility that Burundians could have an opportunity to reclaim their democracy in the upcoming May 20th general elections. Unfortunately, it becomes more apparent every day that the upcoming polls will not afford the people of Burundi the credible process they deserve.

“I strongly condemn violence by all parties. In particular, the systematic violence against the opposition by the Imbonerakure and elements within the police and military directly undermines any democratic process. Burundi's authorities should act decisively to save next week's elections by conducting them in a free, fair, and transparent manner, and take the necessary measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19."

Background: A wave of violence, torture, and killings were carried out by state security agents and the Imbonerakure following protests and a failed coup attempt in 2015 against President Nkurunziza's pursuit of a third term. In the ensuing crisis, approximately 1,700 Burundians died and an estimated 400,000 fled the country. Elections planned for May 20 are proceeding, with candidates holding large rallies, despite the threat posed by COVID-19. The campaign period has been marred by violence and hate speech.