US ends sanctions program on Burundi, noting reforms

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The United States has ended a sanctions program for Burundi, saying circumstances have changed in the East African nation several years after a bloody political crackdown.

Sanctions and visa restrictions on 11 people designated under the program have been lifted, reflecting President Evariste Ndayishimiye’s “pursuit of reforms across multiple sectors over the past year” including economic ones, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Ndayishimiye was elected last year after the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose decision to run for another term in 2015 led to protests and the deadly crackdown. President Joe Biden’s executive order ending the sanctions program noted “significantly decreased violence” in the country.

Those sanctioned included security officials including Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, who is now Burundi’s prime minister.

Ndayishimiye in a tweet overnight welcomed the U.S. decision.

“It is very important to see the international community appreciating the efforts done by the country to protect human rights,” said Sixte Vigny Nimuraba, chairman of the national commission of human rights.

Recently, the United Nations Human Rights Council suspended the mandate of the commission of inquiry on Burundi.

But some human rights groups have asserted that the situation in the country continues to deteriorate and a gap exists between Ndayishimiye’s promises and reality.

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