On 23 November 2015, President Obama issued an executive order imposing targeted sanctions against certain persons or entities contributing to the insecurity and violence in Burundi.
The sanctions are aimed at certain activities of individuals in government and members of armed groups. They do not target the geographic territory, economy, or people of Burundi. The sanctions likewise do not impose a blanket designation on the government of Burundi or Burundian officials. In the Annex to the order, President Obama at this time designated four individuals for sanctions, specifically the Burundian Minister of Public Security, the Deputy Director-General of the National Police, the former Chief of the Burundi Intelligence Service (SNR), and the former Minister of Defense. This action reflects the continued trend of the United States to utilize tailored measures to penalize actors for foreign policy reasons.
Following the issuance of the order, National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price released a statement explaining that the United States has now joined the European Union and the African Union in imposing sanctions upon persons undermining peace and stability in Burundi. He emphasized that the United States will continue to impose consequences and consider new sanctions against government and opposition actors contributing to the unrest.
The White House stated that the order is aimed at activities by individuals within the government and armed groups that contribute to the turmoil in Burundi, including threats to peace and security, actions that undermine democratic institutions, and human rights abuses. TheWhite House called on all parties to renounce violence and to live up to their commitments to participate in an internationally-mediated dialogue outside of Burundi that can lead to the restoration of peace and security and define an inclusive path forward.
Scope of the new restrictions under the order
The order requires U.S. persons to block property interests of designated persons, including the four designated today, when such property is in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons. It further prohibits U.S. persons from doing business with designated persons and imposes visa restrictions on designated individuals.
The order provides for the blocking of the property interests of persons contributing to the situation in Burundi. Actions targeted by the sanctions include threatening peace and security in Burundi, undermining democratic processes, human rights abuses, atrocity crimes, and obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Companies doing business in Burundi should review their business activities to confirm that transactions do not involve persons or entities designated as a Specially Designated National (SDN). An entity in which an SDN has a 50 percent or greater interest is also blocked, regardless of whether it appears on an annex to an executive order or on the SDN list maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
This caution should extend to non-blocked entities over which blocked persons exercise control, but of which they do not own 50 percent or more. For example, OFAC has advised that U.S. persons may not engage in negotiations, enter into contracts, or process transactions involving a blocked individual when that blocked individual is acting on behalf of the non-blocked entity that he or she controls. Thus, if a blocked individual were the executive of a non-blocked entity, such as a corporation, U.S. persons would be prohibited from entering into a contract with that non-blocked entity if the contract were signed by the blocked individual. The same is true if the government official would need to sign the contract at issue.
The persons specifically designated today are the following:
- Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, Minister of Public Security
Alain Guillaume Bunyoni has overseen the Government’s internal security efforts, including those of Burundi’s National Police (PNB), an entity whose members have engaged in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burundi. Under Bunyoni, the PNB has conducted operations in cooperation with the Imbonerakure youth militia to intimidate and silence those who oppose or who are perceived to oppose the Government of Burundi.
- Godefroid Bizimana, Deputy Director-General of the National Police
Godefroid Bizimana is a leader of the PNB, an entity whose members have engaged in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security or stability of Burundi, human rights abuses, and actions or policies that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or freedom of peaceful assembly. Bizimana directed the PNB’s operations to disrupt peaceful protests of those opposed to the Government of Burundi, including a disproportionate use of force and acts of violent repression. In response to protests, PNB officers used tear gas, water cannons, and blocked the free movement of demonstrators. Protestors were arrested and twenty of them were reportedly transported to a location where they were beaten by police officers.
- Godefroid Niyombare, Major General, former SNR chief
Godefroid Niyombare is responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burundi, and is a leader or official of an entity that has engaged in such activities. As the leader of an attempt to overthrow the Government of Burundi in May 2015, Niyombare’s actions contributed to the deterioration of stability within Burundi. After announcing the coup, Niyombare ordered the closure of Burundi’s land borders and its primary airport in an attempt to stop Nkurunziza from returning from Tanzania.
- Cyrille Ndayirukiye, former Minister of Defense
Cyrille Ndayirukiye is responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burundi, and is a leader or official of an entity that has engaged in such activities. As deputy leader of an attempt to overthrow the Government of Burundi in May 2015, Ndayirukiye’s actions contributed to the deterioration of stability within Burundi. Ndayiruke was detained in June by the Government of Burundi, which should grant full and regular humanitarian access by independent monitors to confirm Ndayiruke and other detainees are not being subjected to torture or ill-treatment.
Authority for future designations under the order
The order grants the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the authority to designate persons determined to be responsible for, or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, or to have participated in, directly or indirectly, any of the the actions discussed above. Authorized targets include persons determined:
- to be a leader or official of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in targeted activities or an entity whose property interests are blocked by the order;
- to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support or goods or services in support of any activities discussed above or person whose property interests are blocked pursuant to the order; or
- to be owned or controlled by, or acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property interests are blocked pursuant to the order.
On 12 November 2015, President Obama issued an executive order terminating the emergency related to the actions and policies of the former Liberian President Charles Taylor. As a result, OFAC has terminated its Liberia Sanctions Program and removed certain Liberia-related entries from the SDN list. This action effectively concludes the Liberia sanctions program.
Companies should consider updating compliance policies to reflect the creation of the Burundi sanctions program and the removal of the Liberia sanctions program.