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Burundians wait in line to vote in elections at a primary school in Giheta, with little attention paid to social distancing recommendations to curb the COVID-19 coronavirus

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US hopes for better ties with Burundi after election

Burundians wait in line to vote in elections at a primary school in Giheta, with little attention paid to social distancing recommendations to curb the COVID-19 coronavirus © AFP

Washington, United States, May 21 – The United States said Thursday it hoped for better ties with Burundi after its latest election, which it praised as an improvement from its violent 2015 vote.

“It’s no secret, our relations with Burundi have not been what I would call cordial at all,” said Tibor Nagy, the assistant secretary of state for Africa.

“I’m optimistic about the potential for broad progress in the US-Burundi relationship following these elections,” he told reporters.

The United States, along with other Western nations, strongly criticized the 2015 election in which President Pierre Nkurunziza defiantly sought a third term, plunging the country into violence in which 1,200 people died.

Relations have remain tense since then, with former president Barack Obama’s administration booting Burundi out of a deal that gives African nations preferential access to the US market if they respect democracy.

In a surprise, Nkurunziza did not run again in elections Wednesday, even though his hand-picked heir, military man Evariste Ndayishimiye, is the favorite to win.

Nagy said the United States was “encouraged” by early signs from the vote, which he said the US embassy in Bujumbura was closely following.

“One good point is that these elections are in no way as violent or as problematic as the elections were in 2015,” he said.

The country has remained largely calm, despite allegations of fraud. Authorities have restricted the use of social media.

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“We urge all sides to refrain from provocations or violence, to respect the democratic rights of all citizens and to use established legal prophecies to address potential grievances,” Nagy said.

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