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Burundi: USCR Statement/VOA Report
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Burundi: USCR Statement/VOA Report
Date Distributed (ymd): 960801
U.S. Committee for Refugees
Press statement on Burundi
July 30, 1996
Contact: Jeff Drumtra 202-347-3507
Coup in Burundi: Initial Recommendations and Analysis
Burundi's tragic record of political and ethnic upheavals has
demonstrated time and again during the past 30 years that
sudden eruptions of violence and military oppression there
can rapidly produce tens of thousands of deaths and a
half-million or more new refugees within a period of days.
Even before last week's coup d'etat, at least 800,000
Burundians were already refugees or internally displaced,
including some 200,000 persons who have fled their homes in
the past four months.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees, which has issued two reports
and more than 15 written updates on Burundi during the past
three years, urges U.S. officials to consider seven points in
order to better understand and address Burundi's current
1. Last week's events are the completion of a slow-motion coup
initiated by the Burundian military and ethnic Tutsi
extremists more than two years ago.
Official U.S. statements have conveyed a false impression that
last week's coup was a sudden attack on Burundi's democracy.
In fact, U.S. and other international officials largely
watched as Burundi's attempts at democracy all but died long
A slow-motion coup has been underway in Burundi since October
1993, when Tutsi soldiers assassinated the democratically
elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu. Subsequent
negotiations held under the muzzles of military guns
virtually nullified the constitution, stripped away
presidential powers, eviscerated the elected National
Assembly, awarded top government positions to extremist
political parties with minimal popular support, and handed
ultimate political power to an unelected, unrepresentative
Security Council. Thousands of Hutu civilians were
ethnically cleansed from the capital. Last week's ouster of
President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya merely completes the
creeping coup begun by extremists more than two years ago.
Given these facts, official U.S. statements about recent
events in Burundi have at times been strangely nonsensical.
U.S. officials last week urged the coup makers to adhere to
constitutional government, ignoring the fact that the same
coup makers effectively nullified the constitution two years
ago. The State Department urged continuation of the elected
National Assembly, ignoring that the National Assembly's
power was largely nullified by the countrys creeping coup in
1994. The State Department stated that Burundians should
maintain democratic institutions, despite the fact that
Burundi's fragile democratic institutions have been steadily
dismantled since 1993 by the same forces behind last weeks
2. The United States should coordinate its Burundi policy with
the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which continues to
regard Ntibantunganya as president and has called Buyoya's
presidency totally illegal.
U.S. policy statements refuse to recognize Buyoya as president
but appear to stop short of recognizing Ntibantunganya as
president. Statements by OAU leaders continue to recognize
Ntibantunganya as president and insist that the new regime in
Burundi is totally illegal and must be isolated. The U.S.
should work closely with the OAU to maintain coordinated
policies and a united front in response to the coup.
3. The United States should not assume that Burundi's apparent
new leader, Pierre Buyoya, is the moderate he claims to be.
Nor should the U.S. assume that Buyoya has any freedom of
movement for moderate policies.
News reports last week quoted American officials praising
Buyoya as a force for stability and moderation. These are
shocking comments hours after Buyoya seized power in a coup
against the country's legitimate president.
Buyoya's alleged moderation is undependable. Buyoya could
have demonstrated his moderation and his commitment to
democratic principles by refusing to participate in the coup
and insisting on the legitimacy of Ntibantunganya's
presidency. He failed to do so. Friday, Buyoya exhorted
Burundian Tutsi youths to arm themselves to participate in the
defense of our country. Historically in Burundi and Rwanda,
public calls to give weapons to undisciplined youths are a
thinly veiled incitement to ethnic warfare, and typically
lead to horrific ethnic massacres in the name of defense.
Last month while in Washington, Buyoya blamed Hutu rebels and
the civilian government for fomenting violence, but largely
refrained from blaming Burundi's military despite its record
as the greatest source of atrocities. Buyoya has refused to
support a negotiated settlement to the country's civil war.
4. The United States should demand that Buyoya prove his
moderation and his accountability by taking several steps.
The U.S. should require Buyoya to prove his moderation in
action rather than words.
> Buyoya should publicly urge Ntibantunganya to resume his
duties as president. Buyoya could become prime minister.
> Buyoya should offer to negotiate with rebel leaders without
preconditions. Although a ceasefire in the civil war is
desirable, the lack of a ceasefire should not be used as an
excuse to delay talks.
> Buyoya should arrest or politically neutralize leading Tutsi
extremists, such as former president Jean-Baptiste Bagaza.
> Buyoya should bring soldiers to justice for atrocities
> Buyoya should support and continue the work of a special
Burundian commission, begun earlier this month, to lay the
groundwork for international military intervention.
> Buyoya should move quickly to integrate and reform the
justice system, which remains almost exclusively Tutsi
dominated and lacks the political neutrality needed to
dispense impartial justice.
> Buyoya should adhere to his pledge made last weekend to end
permanently the forcible expulsion of Rwandan Hutu refugees
from Burundi. The Burundian military expelled nearly 15,000
refugees a week ago, in violation of international law. The
UN High Commissioner for Refugees should receive unimpeded
access to operate in the camps.
5. The United States should take the lead in providing human
rights observers to Burundi.
The UN authorized the deployment of some 30 human rights
observers in Burundi months ago, but only four monitors have
been deployed. The United States should take the lead in
funding the full contingent of human rights observers and
pushing to expand the size of the human rights monitoring
program to at least 100 observers.
6. The UN investigation into Burundi's 1993 violence should be
released immediately, with all details made public, in order
to counter the culture of impunity that precipitates
massacres and coups in Burundi.
UN investigators have purposely delayed publishing the results
of their investigation into Burundi's 1993 violence and
presidential assassination for fear the report would
aggravate tensions in current-day Burundi. Burundi's 1993
violence left 50,000 or more persons dead. U.S. officials
have shared the UNs reluctance to publish the full report.
In view of last week's developments, it is again clear that
impunity for past crimes begets more violence. UN human
rights workers should publish their report, and should
explicitly cite the names of government officials,
politicians, and military personnel culpable in the 1993
bloodshed. The international community should no longer allow
itself to be intimidated into silence about gross human
rights abuses committed by Burundi's coup makers.
7. Do not assume that relative calm in Bujumbura represents
conditions or political sentiments throughout Burundi.
Bujumbura, the capital, is heavily policed, and many areas
were ethnically cleansed long before last week's coup.
Buyoya and other coup participants have a vested interest in
showcasing a calm Bujumbura to the international community in
order to convey an image that the coup is benign, popular,
and led by individuals skilled at governance.
U.S. Committee for Refugees
1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW #701
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 347-3507; Fax: (202) 347-3418
Address inquiries by e-mail to Katie Hope at
VOICE OF AMERICA REPORT
DATE=7/31/96 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-201050
TITLE=BURUNDI / SUMMIT (L) BYLINE=SCOTT STEARNS
INTRO: EAST AFRICAN LEADERS HAVE CONDEMNED THE COUP (LAST
WEEK) IN BURUNDI. V-O-A EAST AFRICA CORRESPONDENT SCOTT
STEARNS REPORTS THEY MET WEDNESDAY IN TANZANIA AND ANNOUNCED
THEY ARE IMPOSING ECONOMIC SANCTIONS.
TEXT: EAST AFRICAN HEADS OF STATE SAID THE COUP WILL DEEPEN
THE ETHNIC CONFLICT IN BURUNDI AND WORSEN THE SECURITY AND
STABILITY OF THE ENTIRE REGION.
THEY CONDEMNED BURUNDI'S ARMY FOR ILLEGALLY OUSTING CIVILIAN
PRESIDENT SYLVESTRE NTIBANTUNGANYA AND NAMING FORMER MILITARY
LEADER PIERRE BUYOYA TO REPLACE HIM.
BURUNDI'S ARMY SUSPENDED THE CONSTITUTION, THE NATIONAL
ASSEMBLY, AND ALL POLITICAL PARTIES. EAST AFRICAN LEADERS
CALLED ON THE GOVERNMENT IN BUJUMBURA TO IMMEDIATELY RESTORE
THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY BECAUSE IT IS A LEGAL, DEMOCRATIC
INSTITUTION AND HAS DERIVED ITS MANDATE FROM THE BURUNDI
THEY SAID THOSE WHO HAVE SEIZED POWER SHOULD BEGIN IMMEDIATE
AND UNCONDITIONAL NEGOTIATIONS WITH ALL PARTIES TO THE
CONFLICT, INCLUDING PARTIES AND ARMED FACTIONS INSIDE AND
OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY.
// OPT // THE TUTSI-DOMINATED ARMY HAS BEEN FIGHTING HUTU
REBELS SINCE THE ASSASSINATION OF THE COUNTRY'S FIRST
DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED HUTU PRESIDENT IN 1993.
// OPT // BURUNDI'S LARGELY TUTSI UPRONA PARTY HAS PREVIOUSLY
REFUSED TO MEET WITH THE REBELS' POLITICAL WING. // END OPT //
MR. BUYOYA SAID HE WANTS TO OPEN A NATIONAL DIALOGUE WITH ALL
GROUPS, INCLUDING REBELS, IF THEY SURRENDER THEIR WEAPONS AND
RENOUNCE FURTHER VIOLENCE.
TANZANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER JAKAYA KIKWETE SAID EAST AFRICAN
LEADERS WILL USE ECONOMIC SANCTIONS TO OPPOSE MR. BUYOYA.
// KIKWETE ACT // THE REGIONAL SUMMIT DECIDED TO EXERT
PRESSURE ON THE REGIME IN BURUNDI, INCLUDING THE IMPOSITION
OF ECONOMIC SANCTIONS TO BRING ABOUT CONDITIONS WHICH ARE
CONDUCIVE TO A RETURN TO NORMALCY IN BURUNDI. IN THIS
REGARD, THE SUMMIT STRONGLY APPEALS TO THE INTERNATIONAL
COMMUNITY TO SUPPORT THE EFFORTS AND MEASURES TAKEN BY THE
COUNTRIES OF THE REGION. // END ACT //
EAST AFRICAN HEADS OF STATE RETURNED TO ARUSHA, WHERE ONE
MONTH AGO THEY HEARD A REQUEST FOR SECURITY ASSISTANCE FROM
BURUNDI'S HUTU PRESIDENT AND TUTSI PRIME MINISTER. THE PRIME
MINISTER HAS SINCE RESIGNED, AND THE PRESIDENT HAS SPENT THE
PAST WEEK IN THE RESIDENCE OF THE U-S AMBASSADOR IN BUJUMBURA.
THE REQUEST FOR SECURITY ASSISTANCE LED TO THE APPOINTMENT OF
A TECHNICAL COMMITTEE WHICH HAS DISCUSSED SENDING TROOPS FROM
UGANDA, TANZANIA, AND ETHIOPIA TO PROTECT POLITICIANS AND KEY
BURUNDI'S TUTSI-LED ARMY AND HUTU REBELS HAVE BOTH REJECTED
OUTSIDE INTERVENTION, SAYING IT WOULD VIOLATE NATIONAL
MR. BUYOYA NOT ONLY CONDEMNED THE IDEA, HE SAID ITS VERY
SUGGESTION HELPED BRING DOWN MR. NTIBANTUNGANYA'S GOVERNMENT.
BUT EAST AFRICAN LEADERS PRESSED AHEAD WITH THEIR PLANS. THEY
RECEIVED A REPORT FROM THE TECHNICAL COMMITTEE, AND REAFFIRMED
THEIR COMMITMENT TO IMPLEMENT THE CONCLUSIONS OF THE PREVIOUS
SUMMIT, INCLUDING THE REQUEST FOR SECURITY ASSISTANCE.
// OPT // THE MEETING BROUGHT TOGETHER THE PRESIDENTS OF
UGANDA, RWANDA, KENYA, AND TANZANIA, THE PRIME MINISTERS OF
ZAIRE AND ETHIOPIA, AND REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE UNITED
STATES, THE UNITED NATIONS, AND THE EUROPEAN UNION.
// OPT // THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN
UNITY, SALIM AHMED SALIM, WAS IN ARUSHA, ALONG WITH THE
FOREIGN MINISTER OF CAMEROON, WHICH CURRENTLY SERVES AS
CHAIRMAN OF THE O-A-U.
// OPT // MR. BUYOYA WANTED TO COME TO ARUSHA, BUT HAD TO
SETTLE FOR PRIVATE TALKS WITH UGANDA'S PRESIDENT YOWERI
MUSEVENI AND EAST AFRICAN MEDIATOR AND FORMER TANZANIAN
PRESIDENT JULIUS NYERERE. BOTH MR. BOYOYA AND MR.
NTIBANTUNGANYA SENT REPRESENTATIVES TO THE MEETING. // END OPT
31-Jul-96 10:44 AM EDT (1444 UTC)
Source: Voice of America (gopher://gopher.voa.gov).
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