ICYMI: Sen. Inhofe Discusses the Republic of Burundi’s Current Situation and Way Forward

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today gave a U.S. Senate floor speech on the current situation in the Republic of Burundi, highlighting the importance of working together to end the violence and beginning a dialogue between both sides in Kampala.

Burundi

Click here to watch the floor speech

As prepared for delivery:

I rise today to speak about Burundi, its people, and the future.

Despite a history of outside interference, civil wars and social unrest, Burundi has emerged as a largely cohesive society, overcoming the ethnic divisions that plagued it in the 20th century. 

On April 3, I led a Congressional Delegation of six Members to Burundi where we visited with President Nkurunziza and members of the Parliament of Burundi.

We saw continued growth as a democracy and signs of movement towards a diversified economy under the leadership of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

President Nkurunziza's announcement on April 25 to run for president again was met by increased protests and criticism from the international community, charging that it violated Burundi’s constitution which allows the president to be elected for a mandate of five years renewable one time.

On May 4, Burundi’s Constitutional Court ruled that President Nkurunziza’s first term did not count because he was picked by parliament rather than elected by the people.  This was followed by a failed coup attempt that ended on May 15.

Leading up to the presidential elections, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union urged “all Burundian stakeholders to respect the decision of the Constitution Court, when delivered.”

On May 29, I along with Senator Rounds and Representatives Buchanan, Barton, Kirkpatrick, and Walberg voiced our support for the decision of Burundi's Constitutional Court and called on the international community to support the court’s ruling.

President Nkurunziza won the election for president on July 21 with 69 percent of the vote.

Instead of working with Burundi and its people, the international community denounced the election and stepped up pressure on the newly elected government via sanctions and the withdrawal of support.

The United States suspended military training in July, announced that Burundi will no longer benefit from trade preferences under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act beginning in 2016, and sanctioned four individuals who have contributed to the turmoil, including threats to peace and security, actions that undermine democratic institutions and human rights abuses.

I am concerned that the responses by the United States and international community will do more harm than good in terms of finding a resolution to the current political crisis.

Young people denied jobs will become recruitment fodder for terrorist organizations, making a bad situation worse.

According to a New York Times article written on December 5, the violence seems to have shifted from what appeared to be government-sponsored to rebel-sponsored, “There have been more assassination attempts, more grenades tossed at government property and more random shootings all thought to be the handiwork of the opposition.”

Yesterday, December 8, nearly 100 Burundian protesters who opposed President Nkurunziza during months of violence in Bujumbura have been released from prison.

We must continue to support and stand with the people of Burundi and their growth as a democratic nation.

The United States and international community should support and encourage a political resolution, not drive division and further unrest.

While the violence and the loss of life that has occurred in Burundi cannot be condoned, the situation could have been much worse if it were not for the actions taken by President Nkurunziza, the opposition forces and the people of Burundi.

I have been working to bring all parties together to resolve their differences and was encouraged by comments made at Burundi’s National Prayer Breakfast by President Nkurunziza and representatives of different political parties about looking forward and not behind, and calling for dialogue to resolve differences.

I echo President Museveni’s confidence that a lasting solution to the conflict in Burundi will be found and I encourage all sides to meet together in Kampala as soon as possible to begin resolving political differences. 

I consider President Museveni a friend and I believe he is the leader that can facilitate efforts to find a lasting solution to the political situation in Burundi.

The way forward begins first with putting the elections behind us and acknowledging Pierre Nkurunziza is the president of Burundi.

Second, an immediate agreement by all sides to work together to end the violence and provide the time needed to resolve differences in Kampala.  This also includes the international community who I charge to take positive actions to help enhance peace versus merely demand it through punishment.

Finally, begin all-inclusive meetings in Kampala under the leadership of President Museveni.

I understand the fears that Burundi may regress toward ethnic violence, but I do not agree it is a likely outcome of the current situation. 

We must work with Burundi, not isolate it and its people – only by working together and maintaining stability and calm can we avoid the widespread bloodshed the harshest critics are predicting will come true.

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