On November 23, 2015, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published Executive Order 13712: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi and designated two current Burundian officials and two former Burundian officials under its authority.  This Executive Order (EO) described the situation in Burundi as being “marked by the killing of and violence against civilians, unrest, the incitement of imminent violence, and significant political repression” that constitutes a threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and authorized the imposition of sanctions against those contributing to or exacerbating the situation. 

White House Fact Sheet stressed that the EO “is not targeted at the people of Burundi” and urged Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza and opposition leaders to “participate in an internationally-mediated dialogue outside of Burundi.”  In a companion statement, National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price explained, “President Nkurunziza’s pursuit of a third term in office has precipitated a humanitarian, economic, and security crisis, forcing more than 200,000 Burundians to become refugees in neighboring countries.”  Price also underscored that President Nkurunziza’s political opponents “have resorted to violence against the government, government security forces, and civilians, including murders, grenade attacks, and a coup attempt in May 2015.”

The US announced this EO in conjunction with similar sanctions announcements by the European Union and the African Union.

Sanctionable Conduct and Designations

The EO authorizes OFAC to impose sanctions on individuals and/or entities that participate in the following activities:

  • Threatening Burundi’s peace, security, or stability
  • Undermining democratic processes or institutions in Burundi
  • Abusing human rights
  • Targeting women, children, or civilians through acts of violence, abduction, forced displacement, or attacks on schools, hospitals, religious sites, or locations where civilians are seeking refuge, or through other conduct that may constitute a serious abuse or violation of human rights or a violation of international humanitarian law
  • Limiting freedom of expression or peaceful assembly
  • Using or recruiting children for armed groups or armed forces
  • Obstructing the delivery of or access to humanitarian assistance,
  • Attacking, attempting to attack, or threatening United Nations missions, international security presences, or other peacekeeping operations

The EO authorizes the imposition of sanctions against:

  • Leaders or officials of an entity – including a government entity  or armed group – that has engaged in the foregoing activities
  • Leaders or officials of an entity sanctioned under this EO
  • Individuals or entities that have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of the foregoing activities or an individual or entity sanctioned under this EO,
  • Individuals or entities – directly or indirectly – owned or controlled by, or acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, an individual or an entity sanctioned under this EO

OFAC will block the property and interests in property of individuals and entities sanctioned under this EO.  Individuals sanctioned under this EO will also be subject to US visa and travel bans.

On November 23, 2015, OFAC added four Burundian individuals to the Specially Designated Nationals List.  OFAC sanctioned Minister of Public Security Alain Guillaume Bunyoni for overseeing the Burundian government’s internal security efforts, including those of the Burundian National Police (“PNB”) and its cooperation with the Imbonerakure youth militia.  Similarly, OFAC sanctioned Godefroid Bizimana for leading the PNB and directing its activities.  OFAC also sanctioned former Chief of the Burundian Intelligence Service Major General Godefroid Niyombare and former Minister of Defense Cyrille Ndayirukiye for activities causing Burundi’s deteriorating stability, including leading an attempted coup d’état in May 2015.

Conclusion

Invoking similar calls by the EU and African Union, NSC Spokesman Price urged “all sides in Burundi to demonstrate the strength and leadership necessary to put aside violence and engage in an internationally-mediated dialogue outside Burundi.”

However, Price also emphasized that US “consideration of sanctions against additional individuals is ongoing” if the situation on the ground does not improve and the opposing factions cannot reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

US companies – especially those conducting business in the Great Lakes region of Africa – should insure that they screen potential parties to transactions for these newly-designated persons as well as those who may be owned or controlled by them or providing material assistance to them.