Belgium Urges Burundi to Open Up Politics After President's Vow

(Bloomberg) -- Burundi’s former colonial ruler urged the East African nation to allow greater political freedoms after President Pierre Nkurunziza said he’d step down in 2020, a move that may ease a three-year crisis.

Belgium “hopes that the authorities of Burundi will now start working on opening up the public and democratic space, as an essential step towards the elections in 2020,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement. It called for a resumption of “inclusive dialogue” between the government and its domestic opponents.

Belgium, a major donor to Burundi until recently, has had troubled relations with the country that’s been embroiled in unrest since Nkurunziza in 2015 sought a third term, a step the opposition said violated accords that ended a civil war. While critics saw recent constitutional amendments paving the way for the president to extend his rule, Nkurunziza said Thursday that he doesn’t plan to remain in office beyond the next elections in 2020.

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