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UN says political settlement is crucial before Burundi vote

August 23, 2018

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council says a political settlement in Burundi is crucial ahead of elections in 2020 and is urging all parties, especially the government, to participate “actively and unconditionally” in an inter-Burundian dialogue.

In a statement Wednesday night, the council reiterated its concern at the slow pace of the dialogue led by the East African community and “the lack of engagement by the government of Burundi.”

Burundi has been plagued by political violence since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a disputed third term. Nkurunziza won re-election despite widespread protests, and the country remained volatile.

A successful referendum in May on a new constitution would have allowed him to stay in power until 2034, but Nkurunziza announced in June that he will not run for another term and will support the winner of presidential elections in 2020.

The Security Council welcomed his announcement, which it called “a first step towards reducing political tensions.”

While the security situation in the country “is generally calm,” the council also reiterated its concern at the political situation and stressed that additional steps are needed for elections to be credible.

Council members urged “all relevant parties, including national, regional and international actors” to ensure a successful new round of negotiations of the inter-Burundian dialogue. It called on all countries in the region “to contribute to finding a political solution for the situation in Burundi, refrain from any interference and to respect their obligations under international law.”

The Security Council said it expects the 2020 elections to be “free, fair, transparent, peaceful and fully inclusive,” and emphasized that “considerable improvements to the political and human rights situation,” especially freedom of expression, “are necessary to enable credible elections.”

The council also expressed deep concern at the worsening humanitarian situation.

Nearly 180,000 people are displaced in Burundi and 3.6 million people are in need of aid. Nearly 400,000 Burundians have sought refuge in neighboring countries.

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