U.S. seeks to ease tensions in Burundi

Burundi: Africa's smallest country
Burundi: Africa's smallest country

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Burundi: Africa's smallest country 07:34

(CNN)A crowd of about 200 people gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Bujumbura, Burundi, Thursday, according to a State Department spokesperson, the same day a senior U.S. diplomat was in town to try and ease tensions.

Acting Spokeswoman Marie Harf stopped short of calling the gathering a "protest," saying those involved "assembled peacefully."
Demonstrations have erupted in recent days across Burundi in opposition to a move by the country's president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who announced that he is seeking a third term in office despite a two-term limit set by the Arusha Agreement, which ended the country's civil war more than a decade ago.
Such demonstrations have triggered violent crackdowns by the Nkurunziza government, which has taken control of the country's radio stations.
    U.S. officials have noted concern about the recent violence.
    Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, arrived in Burundi Wednesday. Though the trip was planned prior to the current episode of unrest, Malinowski called on the government to abide by the Arusha Agreement during his trip.
    He met with Nkurunziza while in the country, as well as political opposition members, journalists and activists, according to Harf.
    "[Malinowski] noted that all those responsible for violence will face consequences, urged all sides to reject violence and stressed the importance of ensuring space for peaceful protests, assembly, expression," she said.
    He also "noted there is still time for Burundi to pull back from violence."
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power weighed in on the violence Wednesday, saying, "These actions -- and those we have seen over the past year -- point to a country that has made great progress but sadly is now moving in the wrong direction."
    "Today we see a Burundi seized by fear and at severe risk of deadly violence," she added. "But today we also see a Burundi that still has the time and means to correct course and get back on the path of progress."