Letter to National Security Advisor Rice on Elections in Burundi, April 20, 2015
April 20, 2015
Ambassador Susan Rice
National Security Adviser
National Security Council
Office of the White House
Dear Ambassador Rice:
As Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I am pleased to share with you a statement issued by the Burundi Catholic Bishops’ Conference concerning a potential interpretation of the national constitution that would allow the President of the Republic to run for a third term.
The Bishops’ Conference strongly suggests “… that the constitution be interpreted in the spirit of the Arusha Peace Accords that constitute its very foundations.” In that spirit the Church leaders conclude, “The president elected by the people of Burundi must not exceed the two terms of five years stated in the constitution.” The bishops expressed this same position back in 2013 when they declared that provisions pertaining to power sharing and the respect of political term limits
should remain intact.
This is the second time this year that the bishops of Burundi have issued a statement concerning the upcoming electoral process. They are concerned by the increasing fear and divisions that have been created by the attempt to defy the Arusha Accord and interpret the constitution as permitting a third term. They and the people of Burundi worry that the gains of their young, fragile democracy may be lost due to the manipulation and intimidation this political act may provoke at the expense of the common good. The recent wave of 8,000 refugees streaming into Rwanda attests to the fear of violence that reigns in Burundi.
The Burundi Bishops’ Conference believes that their nation should preserve a true democratic process via the timely and peaceful renewal of its institutions through free and fair elections. I urge you to take the Bishops’ Conference statement into consideration as you formulate your policy towards the evolving situation in Burundi. I am aware that Ambassador Samantha Power participated in a UN Security Council visit to Burundi and laid out a similar position to that of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. We are encouraged by this action. We urge you to continue to work with the government of Burundi, the Church and other political and civil society actors to promote dialogue to build a consensus that would consolidate national unity and sustainable peace for Burundi and by extension to the Great Lakes Region.
Let me end by reiterating our willingness to work with you to support the local Church’s efforts and the work of all those people of good will in Burundi to preserve peace and unity. This country has experienced decades of civil strife, political instability and terrible losses of human life. We must do everything in our power to support all peace-loving people of Burundi.
Most Reverend Oscar Cantú
Bishop of Las Cruces
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace
Cc: Honorable John Kerry, Secretary of State
Ambassador Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Encl: Burundi Bishops’ Conference Statement in French and English