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Obama slaps sanctions on four people over Burundi violence

Barack Obama

Washington: President Barack Obama slapped sanctions against four top current or former security officials in Burundi today, linking them to the country’s descent into violence.

The US action imposes visa restrictions on the four and blocks their US assets, a White House statement said, adding that it was considering similar action against other individuals.

“We call upon all parties in Burundi to reject violence, and we will continue to investigate and impose consequences against leaders from the government or opposition who resort to violence and obstruct a political resolution to this crisis,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

Burundi has fallen into deepening political violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a bid for a third consecutive term office.

The White House said 200,000 Burundians have taken refuge in neighboring countries because of the violence and a spiralling crisis that has taken the country to the brink.

“We have received multiple, credible, and ongoing reports of targeted killings, arbitrary arrests, torture, and political repression by security forces, as well as violence and abuses by youth militia affiliated with the ruling party,” it said.

Nkurunziza’s opponents also have resorted to violence, it said, including murders, grenade attacks, and a coup attempt earlier this year.

The four sanctioned by Obama’s executive order included two current members of Nkurunziza’s government and two former members, who led a coup attempt against him in May.

They are Public Security Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, the deputy director of the national police Godefroid Bizimana, former intelligence chief Godefroid Niymombare, and former defense minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye.

The national police under Bunyoni and Bizimana have conducted operations to silence and intimidate government opponents, breaking up peaceful protests with “disproportionate use of force and acts of violent repression,” the White House said.

It cited what it called Niyombare and Ndayiruke’s role in the May coup attempt as contributing to the deterioration of the country’s stability.

The European Union and the African Union have also decided to impose sanctions on Burundians deemed to have undermined peace.