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President Obama has announced his intention to terminate the designation of Burundi as a beneficiary sub-Saharan African country under the African Growth and Opportunity Act as of Jan. 1, 2016. The president said he is taking this step after having determined that the government of Burundi has not established or is not making continual progress toward establishing the rule of law and political pluralism. In particular, the continuing crackdown on opposition members, which has included assassinations, extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture, has worsened significantly during the election campaign that returned President Nkurunziza to power earlier this year. In addition, the government of Burundi has blocked opposing parties from holding organizational meetings and campaigning throughout the electoral process. Police and armed youth militias with links to the ruling party have intimidated the opposition, contributing to nearly 200,000 refugees fleeing the country since April 2015.
Commenting on the possible effect of this action, an AFP article noted that “while Burundi's exports to the U.S. are … valued at just several million dollars, any disruption would be significant for an economy already forecast by the [International Monetary Fund] to contract by 7.2 percent this year.” Press reports indicate that the European Union and the African Union are also pursuing or considering sanctions against Burundian officials.
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