Thank you Mr. President. President Kafando, thank you very much for your briefing today.
The United States welcomes President Nkurunziza’s announcement in June that he does not intend to seek a fourth term. The act of stepping down of his own accord would be a strong step forward for Burundian democracy and would set a positive example for other leaders in the region. Such a step would also reaffirm the promise he made to the Burundian people in 2015.
As we welcome this positive step, we also call on the Government of Burundi to improve respect for human rights, civic space, media freedom, and overall governance, to allow all Burundians to participate in their government.
Mr. President, we are concerned that the Government of Burundi has still not agreed to a resumption of cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and has denied access to the country by the HRC-mandated Commission of Inquiry.
We remain deeply concerned about continuing human rights violations and abuses, including excessive restrictions on civic and political space in Burundi, media restrictions, arbitrary arrests, and unduly harsh sentences for human rights defenders.
We look to the Government of Burundi to take clear steps end violence and reopen the political space for members of the opposition, independent media, and civil society, and to engage in inclusive dialogue with Burundian political stakeholders. We also urge the Government of Burundi to ensure opposition political actors, including those currently acting as independents, are fully able to participate in future elections.
We encourage opposition political actors to commit to participating in elections in 2020, and to take concrete and realistic steps to ensure they are able to do so. We must also insist that all parties, including the government and opposition members, categorically reject violence as a political tool.
These measures will be essential for peaceful, free, fair, and open political competition ahead of the elections scheduled for 2020.
We also welcome efforts by the region to convene the next round of the East African Community-led inter-Burundian dialogue in September. Sustained support from the region will be required to produce a durable political solution that lays the groundwork for peaceful, free, fair, and inclusive elections in 2020. However, we reiterate that good faith engagement from both the Burundian government and opposition members is necessary for a successful dialogue.
Thank you very much.