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Town Hall Meeting

U.S. Town Hall Meeting: February 24, 2015

February 24, 2015

Hello everyone and thank you for coming to our first Town Hall meeting of 2015. It's also the first Town Hall at my new permanent residence. These events are a great way to meet other Americans who are living and working here in Burundi and share information that we know is vital to U.S. Citizens abroad, such as the quality of local schools, hospitals, and restaurants. I look forward to continuing to meet with you regularly getting to know you all better.

Tonight I'd like to introduce you to a few of the Embassy's newest staff members, then I'll touch on some recent events here in Burundi. In addition, I'll discuss with you how we're preparing for the upcoming Presidential elections.

We have four new employees at the Embassy to introduce to you this evening:

  • Marc Trahan, our new Management Officer, just arrived in Bujumbura in December. Marc has been with the State Department since 2002 and has served in Africa for the last 9 years. He's here with his wife and two-year-old twins.
  • Suzette Smikle is the new Resident Legal Advisor for the Embassy. She has been a Federal Prosecutor for approximately 10 years. She is an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) in the Major Crimes Section of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia, and was previously a Trial Attorney with the Consumer Protection Branch of the Justice Department. Between 2008 and 2010, Suzette also served as a Foreign Service Officer and has served as a Regional Legal Advisor in Ghana, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador.
  • Eddie Sagitto is a recently retired Foreign Service Officer. She has been with us for several weeks, working hard in our Public Diplomacy section. She has served in a variety of PD positions in Romania, Rwanda, Honduras, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovakia. She lives in Munich, Germany. This actually Eddie's last week in Burundi so we wanted to invite her here to both introduce her and thank her for all of her hard work.
  • Assistant Regional Security Officer Michelle Dube joined the State Department in 2010. Her previous postings include Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

There have been several noteworthy occurrences in Burundi as of late. The first is, as many of you probably already know, BNUB, the Bureau des Nations Unies au Burundi, has left the country and MENUB, the Mission Electoral des Nations Unies au Burundi, has arrived and is getting set up. For those of you who are not familiar with the roles of the two organizations, BNUB was here primarily for peace building in post conflict Burundi. MENUB has now taken their place and their primary focus is to observe, before, during and after the upcoming elections. We are working closely with them and anticipate a strong working relationship.

I would also like to mention the recent disturbing events that took place in Cibitoke. We have been closely monitoring and tracking what's been going on. Everyone still has a lot of questions and we will continue to work with the government on properly investigating security forces' actions. Sarah Cloeter, our Regional Security Officer, will also touch on this and will be around afterwards to answer any additional questions you may have.

Lastly, I'd like to talk about what's at the forefront of everyone's minds - the upcoming Presidential elections. Both national and local elections are slated for June. We anticipate the run-up between now and this summer to be an intense period, and we're working closely with other donors as well as CENI, the Commission Electorale Nationale Independente. CENI oversees the electoral process from A to Z and implements the electoral code, to help see that the elections are free, fair, open and, above all, peaceful. CENI announced the election calendar on July 18th as follows:

  • Communal council elections and those of the Deputies of the lower House: May 26;
  • Presidential election on June 26;
  • Senate elections on July 17;
  • Colline council and city ward elections on August 24.
  • If a runoff election were required for the presidential election, the second round would take place on July 27.

To help ensure that the process is fair and transparent, the embassy fielded a team of 19 observers during voter registration in November and December. We'll also be putting together a team for voting observation when the time comes.

We continue to monitor progress towards elections and are working with the government and the political parties to ensure that our support is properly directed and used. We do anticipate that there may be difficulties as the electoral period draws closer. I will let Sarah, our RSO, fill you in on details.

Again, I'd like to thank you all for coming. I hope that you find this evening both useful and enjoyable. And now I'll turn the microphone over to Sarah who will talk to you more about elections as well as other ongoing security concerns.

More Information

  • U.S. Town Hall Meeting: February 24, 2015

    United States Citizens gathered at Ambassador Dawn Liberi's residence on the evening of February 24, 2015 for a U.S. citizens' town hall meeting. Ambassador Liberi made remarks, with a focus on U.S. Embassy programs and priorities. The Regional Security Officer made remarks on the local security environment and shared recommendations for personal security precautions. The Consular Section Chief spoke about the consular services that are available to U.S. Citizens. After the meeting, U.S. Embassy staff registered citizens to vote at the American Citizens Services table.