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Note: 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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: Recent Documents

Burundi: Recent Documents
Date Distributed (ymd): 970119
Document reposted by APIC


January 15, 1997

For further information contact Jeff Drumtra, Africa Policy Analyst, at the U.S. Committee for Refugees, 1717 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Suite 701, Washington, DC 20036; Tel: (202) 347-3507; Fax: (202) 347-3418; E-mail:


The U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) calls on the government of Tanzania to cease immediately its expulsion of Burundian refugees.

Authorities in Tanzania forcibly expelled some 126 Burundians on January 10-11, resulting in the execution of at least 122 of the expellees immediately upon their arrival in Burundi, according to an investigation by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Authorities in Burundi have acknowledged that the Burundian army committed the killings, although their version of the exact events differs from other reports.

USCR warns that Tanzanian officials are committing a grievous wrong if they continue to expel Burundians or in any way pressure Burundian refugees to repatriate to their war-torn country.

More than 300,000 Burundian refugees reside in Tanzania, including an estimated 100,000 persons who have fled to Tanzanian refugee camps in the past six months. An average of several hundred Burundians continue to enter Tanzania each day in search of safety. They are fleeing Burundis intensified civil war, ethnic cleansing, wholesale massacres of civilians both by government soldiers and rebels, and a coup that ousted Burundis democratically elected government last July. Estimates suggest that 15,000 to 30,000 persons were killed in Burundi during 1996. The death toll continues at a rate of several hundred per week in early 1997.

The decision by Tanzanian officials to expel 126 Burundians last week because of their alleged criminal behavior in Tanzania was unconscionable. Tanzanian authorities who suspect particular refugees of criminal activity should detain them and bring them to justice in Tanzanian courts.

There is cause for concern that additional expulsions from Tanzania may occur, with similarly fatal results in Burundi for the returnees. State radio in Tanzania reportedly urged Burundian refugees to return home by stating in recent days that the situation in Burundi is not as threatening as reported by certain quarters.

On the contrary, Burundi remains one of the most dangerous countries on earth. Violence has spread to formerly quiet areas in recent months. Recently returned refugees and other displaced persons who have dared to return to their homes are regularly massacred. Tanzanian authorities tactic of downplaying the dangers in Burundi does a grave disservice to terrified Burundians who have fled to Tanzania for protection, and who rely on authorities for accurate information about conditions for repatriation to their homeland.

Much of the international community chose to withhold criticism last month when the Tanzanian government expelled hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees. The international community regarded many Rwandan refugees in Tanzania as virtual prisoners in their own camps who needed protection from their own extremist leaders. Rwandan refugees were denied accurate information about conditions in Rwanda conducive to repatriation and were generally able to repatriate in relative safety if they were innocent of serious crimes inside Rwanda. Unlike Burundis rulers, Rwandan authorities have not engaged in systematic massacres, and Rwandan government policy has attempted to facilitate repatriation and reintegration.

The situation in Burundi is markedly different, and the conditions for repatriation there are abysmal.

USCR condemns the killing of returnees in Burundi and urges Tanzania to abide by its legal and moral responsibility to provide life-saving asylum to Burundian refugees.


Massacres Weaken Bid to Have Sanctions Lifted

by Moyiga Nduru

[This article reposted with permission. IPS Africa coverage is regularly available in the conference on the APC networks,and by subscription from PeaceNet World News (for information, send a message to For information about cross-posting, send a message to For more information about access to and reproduction of IPS Africa coverage, contact Peter da Costa in Harare (]

NAIROBI, Jan 15, 1997 (IPS) - Burundi's government is again urging its neighbours to lift economic sanctions aimed at forcing de facto president Pierre Buyoya to step down, but its arguments weigh little against continued massacres by its army.

The latest mass killing, admitted by the Burundi military, occurred on Friday, just four days before Defence Minister Firmin Sinzoyiheba met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala to enlist his support for an end to the sanctions.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has condemned the massacre, 122 Hutu refugees who had just returned to Burundi from Rwanda were killed in the incident. UNHCR said soldiers opened fire on the refugees when a woman lobbed a grenade at them, although it did not explode.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in Burundi, some by the Tutsi-led military and others by Hutu rebels bent on overthrowing the Buyoya junta, which seized power on Jul. 25 last.

The latest killing did not prevent the government in Bujumbura from dispatching Sinzoyiheba to Kampala where he was reportedly told by Museveni that any decision to lift the sanctions would have to be taken collectively by East and Central Africa heads of state.

The Burundian defence minister was also scheduled to travel to other regional capitals to lobby for the scrapping of the sanctions, which he said were ''hurting'' Burundi.

East and Central African nations imposed an embargo on all trade with and transport to Burundi on Jul. 31 last to force the military junta to return the country to democratic rule.

The blockade has crippled Burundi's foreign trade, especially coffee, which is its leading export, accounting for 80 percent of the country's foreign earnings and about 40 percent of its gross domestic product before the ban.

Given the continuation of human rights violations in the Central African nation and the fact that the Buyoya regime has held on to power, neighbouring states are unlikely to lift the ban, which the opposition wants them to maintain.

In Nairobi, Burundi's main armed opposition group, the Hutudominated National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD), insists that the embargo should be tightened, charging that some regional countries are violating it, especially Rwanda.

In a letter last week to the Sanctions-Monitoring Committee on Burundi -- set up by the leaders of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zaire and Cameroon -- the CNDD said Rwanda had allowed goods into Burundi in violation of the ban.

''On Friday, Jan. 3, twenty lorries with trailers transporting all kind of unidentified goods, including caps for beer bottles, entered Burundi at the official border between Rwanda and Burundi,'' the CNDD said.

''They were chauffeured by soldiers of the Burundi regular army and directed to the industrial estate in Bujumbura just next to the building of a transit and transport company called TRANSINTRA,'' the CNDD added in the document, signed by Innocent Nimpagariste, its representative in Nairobi.

''When asked, the government of Rwanda said that it was the work of uncontrolled smugglers. Yet the presence of soldiers as drivers exclude every possibility of smuggling without prior authorization of the Rwandese authorities,'' added the letter, a copy of which was made available to IPS.

The CNDD charged that goods were also finding their way into Burundi from other countries: cement from Zambia, beer from Zaire as well as Rwanda, and perfumes, cooking oil and salt from Kenya and Tanzania.

A Ugandan journalist writing in the Jan. 6-12 issue of 'The East African' weekly here said he witnessed vehicles transporting fuel to Burundi while on a visit to that nation.

''Recently I saw a convoy of 10 fuel tankers, their number plates obscured by mud, driving to Bujumbura, the Burundi capital,'' he wrote. ''Five of the tankers, with trailers, came from Rwanda and five from Tanzania. They converged at Kayanza junction inside Burundi then proceeded in single file to Bujumbura where residents said they entered the city.''

In its letter to the Sanctions-Monitoring Committee, the CNDD also charged that Burundi's authorities were seeking the help of countries that have not joined the embargo.

It said a delegation of civil aviation officials travelled at the beginning of January to Congo ''to negotiate with Congolese authorities an agreement on an air-corridor connecting (the port of) Pointe Noire and Bujumbura to be operated by Air Burundi as a way of beating sanctions.

''The first plane has already landed in Pointe Noire and will continue doing so on a regular basis if the agreement is signed,'' the CNDD charged. ''Air Burundi will be transporting tea and coffee from Burundi, while on the return flight it will take arms and ammunitions to Bujumbura.'' (END/IPS/MN/KB/96)

[c] 1997, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS). All rights reserved.

Excepts from IRIN Emergency Updates on the Great Lakes

UNITED NATIONS Department of Humanitarian Affairs, Integrated Regional Information Network, Tel: +254 2 622147 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: The material contained in this communication may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer.

IRIN's daily updates cover the entire Great Lakes region. Below are excerpts on Burundi from recent updates. The full text of the updates, as well a wide variety of other current UN, NGO and press reports, can be found on the United Nations' ReliefWeb site:

IRIN Emergency Update No.79 on the Great Lakes (Wednesday 15 January 1997)

# Church officials in Burundi claimed other massacres occurred last month, in the northern province of Kayanza. Eyewitnesses reportedly told the bishop of Ngozi that soldiers killed some 3,000 people in the Gatara, Rango and Butaganzwa areas between December 2 and 30. However, military commander Cyrille Ndayirukiye, quoted by AFP, dismissed the figure as exaggerated although he admitted about 30 people had been killed. Both rebel and military attacks were said to be on the rise in northern Kayanza, and the increase in ethnic tension was making it difficult for humanitarian organisations to operate. News of the alleged massacre came through as the US State Department condemned the killing of some 120 refugees who were returned to Burundi from Tanzania on Friday. "This massacre is only part of a pattern of violence in Burundi which must cease," State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said yesterday. He also called for all-party talks and a ceasefire in Burundi.

Seventeen people were sentenced to death in Burundi last year for offences linked to ethnic massacres which broke out after the assassination of president Melchior Ndadaye in October 1993. The president of the appeal court, Domitille Barancira, said the death sentences were confirmed out of 45 appeal cases that had been heard so far. A total of 139 cases have been appealed. Barancira told AFP that those tried had been accused of murder, assassination, offences against state security, membership of armed bands and armed robbery. She added that no executions had been carried out since cases of cannibalism were punished about 15 years ago.

Relief organisations report that large numbers of newly displaced persons continue to arrive at the hospital in Bubanza, northern Burundi, with 250 people registered on one day alone. Many of them showed signs of acute malnutrition. The new arrivals speak of continued instability in the hills north of the town. A new centre is being built in the hospital grounds to cope with the overwhelming requirements of malnourished people.

# Burundi's Defence Minister Firmin Sinzoyiheba kicked off a campaign to lift regional economic sanctions against his country by holding talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the Kenyan 'Daily Nation' reported today. He is expected to meet other regional leaders in the next few weeks. According to Museveni's press secretary, Sinzoyiheba explained the detrimental effect of sanctions on the country but Museveni insisted any decision to lift the embargo would be have to be made collectively. Uganda stressed Burundi must abide by the conditions set by regional leaders when sanctions were imposed last year. These include a dialogue with Hutu rebels. Rwandan Vice-President Paul Kagame, during a visit to Cyangugu prefecture last week, said regional leaders were looking into how the economic embargo against Burundi could be lifted. He expressed hope that common ground would be found. While in Cyangugu, he held talks with the director of the Bugarama cement factory to discuss increasing production for future export to neighbouring Zaire and Burundi, Rwandan radio said.

Nairobi, 15 January 1997, 15:30 gmt [ENDS]

IRIN Emergency Update No.80 on the Great Lakes (Thursday 16 January 1997)

# The Burundi authorities have accused Hutu rebels of the National Council for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD) of massacring 22 people in the volatile northwest Cibitoke province. Defence Ministry spokesman, Col. Isaie Nibizi, interviewed by Burundi radio, said rebels launched an attack overnight Monday in Rugombo, killing 22 mostly women, children and old people with machetes and knives. Four more people were injured. Nibizi said the local governor and military officials had visited the area and helped to bury the dead. Nibizi also spoke about the incident in Muyinga province last week when soldiers opened fire on Hutu returnees from Tanzania, killing some 120. He said the returnees were from the rebel Palipehutu party "which is why the soldiers did not make any mistakes and why the incident took place". An investigation was underway, he added. UN officials report that the provincial military commander has been sacked and that human rights observers have been denied access to Kobero where the killings occurred.

# Burundian President Pierre Buyoya on Tuesday met political leaders, the first meeting of its kind since the unbanning of political parties last September. Speaking on national radio, Buyoya said the purpose of the meeting was to create a framework for regular political meetings and to discuss the forthcoming national debate. He described the national debate, scheduled for later this month, as "a clean page intended to bring Burundians closer together for discussions".

# Tanzanian police have launched a crackdown on Rwandan refugees who tried to flee deeper into the country rather than face repatriation. A total of 6,354 refugees who ventured into forests in the Ngara region had been apprehended by Tuesday and handed over to Rwandan officials at the Rusumo border crossing. Ngara District Commissioner Evans Balama said the crackdown would continue until all aliens had left Ngara. He urged local residents to assist the police in flushing out the refugees. Balama added that the operation had also resulted in netting 8,441 Burundians who entered the country illegally. They had been transferred to the Lukole refugee camp in Ngara district. An exercise to transfer 60,000 Burundians from Kitali camp to Lukole also began on Tuesday.

Nairobi, 16 January 1997, 14:30 gmt [ENDS]

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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