U.S. Urges Burundi to Resume Political Dialogue With Opponents

The U.S. has urged Burundi’s opposing parties to restart a political dialogue aimed at preventing months of unrest from escalating.

More than 200,000 have been displaced by turmoil that began when the ruling party in April picked President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third mandate, sparking street protests and a failed coup attempt. Talks to end the political crisis broke down before the elections in July that delivered a victory to Nkurunziza. The U.S. says the polls weren’t credible.

“We think the political dialogue must be open and inclusive,” Thomas Perriello, a U.S. special envoy for the region, said in a phone briefing on Wednesday. Forming a government of national unity is an important step, he said.

“This cannot simply be a fig leaf attempt to piece together that coalition, it needs to be based on an understanding of legitimate concerns from throughout the country.”

Perriello said the U.S. is keeping up pressure on the parties, and has begun preparing some actions, such as curbs on aid and visa restrictions.

Perriello said 94 people have been killed in the more than three months of violence and 40 others tortured.

Human-rights campaigners say Burundian authorities have arrested at least 21 people this week in a security crackdown following frequent gunfire and the assassination of a close ally of Nkurunziza.