BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - The United States will review its relations and level of aid to Burundi over the next two months after the central African nation held elections that Washington says were not credible, the U.S. ambassador said on Thursday.
The United States provides training and equipment worth about $80 million a year for Burundi’s military and security forces, along with other aid, supporting a nation now in crisis after President Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term.
Opponents said he violated the constitution by running in Tuesday’s race. Washington and other donors had urged Nkurunziza to stick to the two-term limit laid down in a peace deal that ended civil war in 2005.
Results are due on Friday. Nkurunziza, who cited a court ruling saying he could run, is expected to win after an opposition boycott.
“Over the next couple of months we will be reviewing very carefully the level of our assistance, what programs will be continued or not,” Ambassador Dawn Liberi told Reuters, adding it would be driven by policy concerns and administrative issues.
“It is a process that will obviously continue depending on what happens politically,” she said, calling for steps to ensure full democratic freedoms, disarming militias and lifting curbs on the media after private radio stations were shut down.
“What we are calling for is for all parties to go back to the mediation process and try to forge a way forward that is inclusive,” she said. The aim, she added, is to ensure U.S. aid to the health and other such sectors is not affected.
Weeks of protests in which demonstrators clashed with police preceded the June 29 parliamentary election, while explosions and gunfire erupted in Bujumbura before the presidential vote.
The government says the elections were fair and accuses the opposition of stoking tensions. Burundi, which relies on aid to fund half its budget, says it wants good ties with donors but will not let them dictate policies.
“We prefer our dignity, not people to come to impose their law and their point of view in our country,” presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe told Reuters.
Some U.S. aid has already been halted or disrupted, in part because some U.S. personnel were pulled out of Burundi due to the unrest. The U.S. support includes training Burundi troops serving with an African peacekeeping force in Somalia.
The United States has also imposed visa bans on some Burundian government officials. It has not named them.
European Union states have halted some aid and threatened further punitive steps.
Editing by Drazen Jorgic/Mark Heinrich