Four Burundians to be US sanction-free

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The US will lift restrictions on four Burundians it sanctioned in 2015 over violence in the country, the White House said.

In 2015, the US sanctioned four former then serving officials, citing targeted killings, arbitrary arrest, torture and political repression by security forces.

The situation in Burundi, US President Joe Biden said in a statement, “has been significantly altered by events of the past year, including the transfer of power following elections in 2020 and significantly decreased violence”.

The executive order sanctioned Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, former public security minister and present prime minister; Godefroid Bizimana, former police chief and now presidential adviser; Godefroid Niyombare, former intelligence chief who attempted a coup and whose whereabouts are unknown and Cyrille Ndayirukiye, also an attempted coup leader and now dead.

Former President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose pursuit of a third term Washington said pushed Burundi towards crisis, died last year. He was succeeded by Evariste Ndayishimiye.

“The US recognises positive reforms pursued by President Ndayishimiye, while continuing to press government to improve the human rights situation in the country and hold accountable those responsible for violations and abuses,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo.

In September, Human Rights Watch said “grave human rights violations persist” since Ndayishimiye took office and his government had not undertaken adequate reforms.

There were several bomb blasts in Burundi in recent months. One was claimed by rebel group Red Tabara, which is trying to overthrow government.