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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Burundi: NGO Letter to Clinton
Any links to other sites in this file from 1996 are not clickable,
given the difficulty in maintaining up-to-date links in old files.
However, we hope they may still provide leads for your research.
Burundi: NGO Letter to Clinton
Date Distributed (ymd): 960907

U.S. RELIEF AGENCIES URGE CLINTON TO TAKE
ADDITIONAL ACTION TO PREVENT FURTHER LOSS OF LIFE IN BURUNDI

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fourteen U.S. relief and
refugee-assistance agencies have urged President Clinton to
take additional steps to avoid repetition in Burundi of the
mass violence which took 500,000 to 1,000,000 lives in
neighboring Rwanda two years ago.

In an August 21 letter to the White House, the agencies asked
the President to press U.S. allies to work more closely with
African governments to cut off the flow of arms to the region
and to stem cross border violence. The agencies also called
for contingency plans to protect potential victims should
diplomacy fail and more widespread violence erupt.

Specific measures recommended included consultations between
the U.S. military and international organizations and
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in neighboring
states to identify ways the U.S. military could help the
humanitarian community meet critical refugees needs.

The agencies also called on the President to press U.S. allies
to be prepared to provide ground troops for an intervention
force should one have to be mobilized. In addition, the
President was asked to go beyond the outstanding U.S. offer of
logistic support for such a force and also to furnish modern
equipment, training, and financial backing. The letter cites
a recent University of Maryland poll indicating that
two-thirds of the American public would favor even stronger
U.S. action.

For more information contact:
Mike Kiernan at InterAction, 1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite
801, Washington, DC 20036.  Phone: 202-667-8227, ext. 132; e-
mail: mkiernan@interaction.org.

Text of letter:

August 21, 1996

President William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The ongoing genocidal violence in Burundi, already responsible
for an estimated 150,000 deaths, could accelerate to
catastrophic levels without any further advance warning. We
call on you, as President of the world's most powerful and
influential nation, to take the steps necessary to forestall
repetition of the tragedy which shamed the international
community two years ago in Rwanda.

We appreciate the attention which senior members of your
administration have been giving to the continuing crisis in
Burundi, in particular the visits of Ambassador Albright and
National Security Advisor Lake, as well as the recent
personal involvement of Secretary Christopher. We also laud
the generous assistance provided by the U.S. government to
refugees in and from Burundi.

However, it is apparent that the earnest preventive diplomatic
efforts undertaken by the U.S. and key African leaders have
not defused the situation. The recent coup and subsequent
embargo add to internal pressures which could tear the
country apart. Both more vigorous American diplomacy to
prevent such a blowup and realistic contingency planning for
limiting the loss of human life if diplomacy fails will be
welcomed by the millions of Americans who support our
agencies' goals and operations.

Several of Burundi's African neighbors have sought to
facilitate an end to the violence with the backing of the
Organization for African Unity. However, it has been
difficult for them to deal with some of the key issues,
including cross border violence and the continuing flow of
arms to the area. The United States and allied governments
with long-standing influence in the region have resources and
leverage which should be committed to resolution of these
problems. It is particularly important that the
administration communicate to the leadership of the French
government the great importance it attaches to collaborative
action.

If widespread violence erupts in Burundi substantial
population movements will occur. Neighboring states will be
more willing to allow Burundians fleeing violence to find
refuge on their territory if more affluent members of the
international community have pledged financial and logistic
support. To prepare for such a contingency, we ask that in
addition to conveying the appropriate assurances to the
neighboring governments, you authorize the appropriate U.S.
military commands to engage in consultations with the
international organizations and NGOs operating in Tanzania
and Zaire. The objective of these consultations would be to
identify ways in which the U.S. military could help meet
critical refugee needs exceeding the response capabilities of
the humanitarian community.

We are aware that the United Nations has tried to make
contingency plans for intervention in the event that a
collapse of governmental authority leads to even more
widespread killing in Burundi. The need for such intervention
will be essential if Burundi's neighbors do not permit
refugee outflows. However, it has become clear that no such
intervention will occur unless the United States is prepared
to play a role consistent with its power and influence. This
role should go beyond that currently contemplated. The U.S.
should be encouraging commitments by U.S. allies of the
ground forces needed to lead such an intervention. It also
should indicate to African governments willing to contribute
their troops to such a force that the U.S. will provide not
only logistic support but modern equipment, training and
financial backing.

Humanitarian assistance and respect for human rights have long
enjoyed strong bipartisan support among the American people
and their political leaders. A survey published in July by
the University of Maryland indicated that 66% of the American
people would even favor contributing U.S. troops to a UN
peacekeeping operation in Burundi should forces there engage
in genocide. The more modest effort we recommend would
undoubtedly be well-received by the vast majority of our
fellow Americans.

Adventist Development and Relief Agency International
Africare
American Jewish World Service
American Refugee Committee
International Medical Corps
International Rescue Committee
Mercy Corps International
Refugees International
Trickle Up Program
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United Methodist Committee on Relief
World Concern Development Organization
World Relief Corporation
World Vision US

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This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational
affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and
individuals.

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URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs96/bur9609.php