U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration imposed sanctions on Burundi’s public security minister, a senior police official and other individuals who it says are threatening the stability of the country.
Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, the head of national security, and Godefroid Bizimana, the police deputy director-general, are subject to asset freezes and travel bans, according a statement posted on the U.S. Treasury department’s website on Monday.
The country plunged into deadly violence after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April that he’d seek a third term in office. He secured a new mandate in July elections, which the U.S. and European Union have described as flawed.
The U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, has warned the language being heard in Burundi echoes that used in neighboring Rwanda before a genocide in 1994 that left at least 800,000 people dead. Rwanda and Burundi share a similar ethnic balance.
The UN’s Security Council said earlier this month it’s considering “additional measures” against anyone blocking a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The political crisis has raised fears that the nation risks sliding back into civil war, after a 12-year conflict that killed 300,000 people ended with a peace accord in 2005.
Over the weekend, at least five people were killed by unidentified assailants across Burundi, the latest in a wave of killings aimed at both government and opposition supporters. More than 240 people have died and another 200,000 have fled to neighboring countries to escape the fighting.
Burundi’s former colonial ruler, Belgium, has advised nationals on non-essential business in the country to leave “as normal conditions allow.” Remarks “hostile to Belgium and threats to Belgian nationals” have been made over the past month as violence has worsened, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said on its website.
The country holds an estimated 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves.
Godefroid Niyombare, a former intelligence chief who led a failed coup in May, and fellow coup leader and former Defense Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye also face U.S. sanctions.