President Obama expels Burundi from Agoa for rights violations

Sunday November 1 2015

The US president has expelled Burundi from the Agoa trade pact for human rights violations and failure to institute political pluralism.

President Barack Obama addresses the International Chiefs of Police (IACP) annual conference at McCormick Place on October 27, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The US president has expelled Burundi from the Agoa trade pact for human rights violations and failure to institute political pluralism. PHOTO | AFP 

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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New York

President Barack Obama on Thursday terminated Burundi’s eligibility for the US preferential trade programme known as Agoa.

Mr Obama said in a letter to the US Congress that he is acting because Burundi has failed to institute the rule of law and political pluralism.

“In particular,” the president declared, “the continuing crackdown on opposition members, which has included assassinations, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture, have worsened significantly during the election campaign that returned President Nkurunziza to power earlier this year.”

POLITICAL GESTURE

Removal of Burundi from the roster of Agoa eligible countries can be seen more as a political gesture than as a significant sanction.

Imports by the US of goods from Burundi last year were valued at only about $4.4 million. Imports from Kenya, by contrast, totalled $566 million.

In July, the US suspended all training programmes for Burundi’s military in the run-up to an election that resulted in President Pierre Nkurunziza winning a third term.

The US had opposed his decision to run again on the grounds that the move violated the terms of a peace agreement ending a civil war that took an estimated 300,000 lives.

Mr Obama has previously used Agoa expulsions as a means of pressuring African countries judged to be engaged in systematic human rights violations.