Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 2023. By TIMOTHY A. CLARY (AFP/File)
The United States on Friday criticized Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye after he called for public stoning of same-sex couples, the latest anti-gay broadside by an East African leader.
“The United States is deeply troubled by President Ndayishimiye’s remarks targeting certain vulnerable and marginalized Burundians,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.
“We call on all of Burundi’s leaders to respect the inherent dignity and inalienable rights, including equal access to justice, of every member of Burundian society,” he said.
The statement did not explicitly mention LGBTQ rights, a delicate topic in much of Africa, but was a clear reference to remarks by Ndayishimiye at a public event late last month.
Responding to a question on gay couples, Ndayishimiye said, “Personally, I think if we see these kind of individuals in Burundi, we should put them in a stadium and stone them.”
Burundi’s relationship has improved in recent years with the United States, which had imposed sanctions in 2015 over a deadly crackdown on dissent as Ndayishimiye’s predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza controversially sought a third term.
The United States in 2022 agreed to a five-year aid package with Burundi after removing sanctions, in part crediting reforms by Ndayishimiye.
The US statement Friday did not threaten repercussions. Last month, the United States restricted visas to officials from Uganda who implement a new law that carries potential death sentences for homosexual relations.
President Joe Biden promised on taking office in 2021 to advocate forcefully at home and abroad for LGBTQ rights, although US diplomats often say a quiet approach is more effective.