US condemns Burundi killings, calls for peaceful end to crisis

A protestor opposed to the Burundian President's third term confronts members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, armed with sticks in the Kimana neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
A protestor opposed to the Burundian President's third term confronts members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, armed with sticks in the Kimana neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The US government on Monday condemned the recent killings of an opposition party leader in Burundi and at least 20 others, urging all the parties to renounce violence and continue to work toward a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Ms Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman for the US State Department, urged the Burundian government to investigate the recent attacks, and to take concrete steps to ensure the safety of political leaders during the electoral process.

"We call on all parties to immediately renounce the use of violence," Ms Harf said in a statement.

"These attacks only undermine ongoing efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the current crisis through dialogue."

Burundi's opposition on Monday boycotted peace talks with the government in protest at the killing of Zedi Feruzi, the leader of the opposition UPD party, and his bodyguard.

Rights groups say at least 20 people have died since protests broke out on April 26, a day after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third five-year term.

Ms Harf said the United States supports the political dialogue facilitated by the UN Special Envoy, Said Djinnit, and envoys from the African Union, the East African Community, and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

Washington urged the parties to continue to participate in the dialogue, and said the Burundian government needed to provide the political space needed for a peaceful and credible electoral process, by stepping up freedom of expression.

The State Department also called on the government to allow the immediate resumption of broadcasts by independent radio stations, end the use of the term "insurgents" to refer to peaceful protesters, and withdraw a national security proclamation that banned future demonstrations.

Ms Harf said the United States continued to monitor the situation in Burundi closely and was prepared to take additional measures against those who commit, incite or promote violence or other human rights abuses and violations. She gave no further details about what those measures could entail.