Obama Tightens Sanctions On Burundi Over Grave Abuses

image011Citing a crackdown on opposition members, including assassinations, arbitrary arrests and torture, President Barack Obama ousted Burundi from a preferential trade pact with the U.S. known as Agoa effectiveJan. 1.

In a letter to the U.S. Congress, Obama said Burundi had failed to institute the rule of law and political pluralism following the election that returned President Pierre Nkurunziza to power earlier this year.

AGOA allows eligible African countries to export certain products without paying any duties, helping the countries to boost exports. Because US imports from Burundi are valued at only about $4.4 million, the action is considered more political and economic. U.S. imports from Kenya, by contrast, totaled $566 million.

President Nkurunziza was re-elected in July in an election boycotted by the opposition. The United States and European Union said the vote was neither free nor fair.

In more recent weeks, Burundi has had a string of killings widely seen as a sign of continued unrest. Fear of more unrest prompted nearly 200,000 Burundians to flee the country, with most going to Tanzania or Rwanda.

Media reports that the opposition is being crushed and communities intimidated, with bodies turning up on the streets nearly every day.

A similar scenario is playing out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where scheduled elections are facing obstacles blamed on President Joseph Kabila.

The vice president of the election commission has just resigned, only three weeks after the president of the commission quit for health reasons.

Congo was meant to begin a 13-month cycle of local, provincial and national elections, to culminate in a November 2016 presidential election that could mark the first peaceful transition of power in the country’s history.

But those dates were missed and a spokesman for the ruling coalition said that a national census and revision to voter rolls must first take place to guarantee the credibility of the vote.

Election prospects are also looking dim in a third country. The Central African Republic has re-scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections for Dec. 13. Violence in the capital city forced their cancellation on Oct. 18.

The elections are intended to usher in a government with authority to restore order in one of Africa’s most turbulent states and pave the way for the departure of UN and French peacekeepers.

Only Guinea managed to have elections that succeeded in producing an accepted winner. While the election’s results were announced Oct. 17, the nine-member court had to weigh complaints from opposition candidates before certifying them. Incumbent Alpha Conde was upheld as the winner with 57.84% of the vote.

Opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, condemned the vote as fraudulent. He came in second with 31.44%.

On his electoral victory, President Conde received congratulations from Ghana’s presidential candidate for 2016, Nana Akufo-Addo.

“I wish President Conde and the Guinean people the very best of luck in the years to come, as Guinea unleashes her tremendous potential to develop into a thriving, prosperous democratic state.

“It is my hope that the relations between Guinea and Ghana will grow from strength to strength in the second term of Alpha Conde’s presidency.”

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