Burundi: Recent Documents, 5/15/'96

Burundi: Recent Documents, 5/15/'96

Burundi: Recent Documents
Date Distributed (ymd): 960515

Mennonite Central Committee

After ten months of living in Bujumbura and talking to both Hutu and Tutsi mid-level leaders, I am more and more convinced that the greatest contribution the international community can make in Burundi, greater than humanitarian aid, greater than development aid, is to move the political leaders toward negotiations.

Currently hard-liners on both sides, but particularly those from the opposition political parties, refuse to negotiate. On the one hand, some rebel leaders say that they can never negotiate until those responsible for President Ndadaye's death are brought to trial. On the other hand, Tutsi military and Uprona party leaders (including the Prime Minister) refuse to negotiate with those rebels who they claim are advocating genocide.

An armed solution to the conflict would not be a true solution. On the one hand, if the current government remains in power, the situation for the Hutus remains untenable because they have limited access to university training and to positions of authority, and because their safety is not guaranteed as long as minority youth gangs ("Sans Echec") are allowed to act with impunity. And the current death toll of perhaps 100/week will likely continue. On the other hand, military victory by the opposition militia groups, unless rebel leaders act with unusual restraint and wisdom, would likely lead to massacres and flight of the Tutsi population, especially when the Tutsis remember the events that took place in Rwanda.

Consequently, a negotiated settlement that guarantees to both ethnic groups true power-sharing, representation, and access to the army is surely essential. If the armed conflict continues, yet another generation of young people will become adults in an environment that expects impunity, flouts authority, considers human life cheap, does not respect differences, and values cruelty.

The international community needs to demonstrate the strongest possible support for the mediation efforts of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. He has the moral authority to bring people together, and the respect of all parties. (Other mediation efforts are in the beginning stages as well and deserve support. For example, an initiative undertaken by protestant church leaders is also under way to contact influential people on both sides of the conflict. It is possible that the Church would be accepted as a mediator in this convoluted struggle.)

I call upon the international community to find creative ways of encouraging the antagonists to come to the table, by cajoling, using personal contacts, promising rewards, threatening sanctions of various kinds, bringing media attention to individuals, pushing for a trial for those suspected of involvement in the coup attempt in 1993, and in a variety of other ways.

For example, international actors could:

1) publicly support the mediation efforts of President Nyerere,

2) send high-level delegations to talk privately with leaders of all sides,

3) in those private talks, offer a neutral venue for negotiations, guarantee safe-conduct and good offices, and explore ways of bringing to justice those involved in the 1993 coup,

4) threaten limited, personal sanctions such as freezing personal assets and refusing to grant travel visas to leaders if they do not agree to negotiate within a given time period.

I implore the appropriate actors to give wholehearted support to discovering ways to encourage, facilitate and demand a mediated settlement to the conflict in Burundi.

Dr. Lauren W. YODER
Mennonite Central Committee
May 5, 1996

For more information please be in touch with Judy Zimmerman Herr, MCC Peace Office, Mennonite Central Committee, Box 500, Akron, PA 17501, USA; tel: 717-859-1151; fax: 717-859-2171; e- mail:

United Nations Security Council


25 April 1996
Press Release: SC/6213

Deeply concerned at the widespread purchase and use of weapons by Burundians and at reported statements calling for the arming of civilians, the Security Council this afternoon called on all Burundians to renounce the use of violence and engage in a comprehensive dialogue to ensure a peaceful future.

Through a statement read out by its President, Juan Somavia (Chile), the Council urged the authorities and all parties in Burundi to demonstrate the necessary unity and political will to settle the conflict peacefully. It condemned all acts of violence and expressed deep concern, in particular, at the laying of land-mines.

The Council was deeply concerned at the recent degeneration of security conditions and political cooperation in the country. It stated that the dramatic increase in violence had already severely inhibited humanitarian aid and could have a negative effect on donors' capacity to implement development assistance.

In view of the current situation, the Council asked the Secretary- General to expedite consultations with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and concerned Member States on contingency planning, as appropriate. Such talks would focus both on supporting a comprehensive dialogue, as well as on a rapid humanitarian response in the event of widespread violence or a serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

The Council extended its full support for efforts by the Secretary- General's Special Representative, former President Julius Nyerere of the United Republic of Tanzania, and other envoys to facilitate negotiations to end the current crisis. It looked forward to the recommendations to be submitted by the Secretary-General on progress towards commencement of the national debate and other initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and national reconciliation.

Text of President Statement

The statement, which will be issued as document S/1996/21, reads as follows:

"The Security Council has taken note of the letter dated 12 April 1996 from the Secretary-General to the President of the Council on the present situation in Burundi (S/1996/313), in response to the request to the Secretary-General in resolution 1049 (1996) to keep the Council informed on the situation.

"The Security Council is deeply concerned at the recent degeneration of security conditions and political cooperation in Burundi. The Council condemns all acts of violence. The Council is equally concerned at reported statements calling for the arming of civilians which could lead to grave consequences. The dramatic increase in violence throughout the country already severely inhibits humanitarian aid and could have a negative effect on the donors' capacity to implement development assistance in support of the search by the people of Burundi for reconciliation and rehabilitation.

"The Security Council urges the authorities and all parties in Burundi to set aside their differences and demonstrate the necessary cohesion, unity and political will for settlement of the conflict by peaceful means. The Council calls upon all Burundians to renounce the use of violence and to engage in a comprehensive dialogue to ensure a peaceful future for the people of Burundi.

"The Security Council is deeply concerned at the widespread purchase and use of weapons by Burundians, in particular the laying of land-mines.

"The Security Council looks forward to the recommendations of the Secretary-General in the report which it requested by 1 May 1996 on the progress towards commencement of the National Debate and other initiatives for comprehensive political dialogue and national reconciliation. The Council extends its full support for and confidence in the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and those of former President Nyerere and other envoys to facilitate negotiations to resolve the present crisis.

"The Security Council requests the Secretary-General, in accordance with paragraph 13 of resolution 1049 (1996), to expedite consultations with Member States concerned and the Organization of African Unity, as appropriate, on contingency planning both for the steps that might be taken to support a comprehensive dialogue and for a rapid humanitarian response in the event of widespread violence or serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Burundi.

"The Security Council underlines its commitment to follow events in Burundi closely and resolves to consider further all relevant options for an appropriate response by the international community upon receipt of the impending report of the Secretary-General." Security Council

The meeting, which was called to order at 12:31 p.m., was adjourned at 12:37 p.m.

Letter from Secretary-General

"I fear that there is a real danger of the situation in Burundi degenerating to the point where it might erupt into a genocidal conflict", the Secretary-General states in a 4 April letter to the President of the Council (document S/1996/313). In that letter, he passes on the "alarming information" received from his Special Representative.

According to the Secretary-General, the security situation in Burundi took another turn for the worse during March. There was a sharp increase in the number of attacks by Hutu rebels. Heavy fighting, formerly concentrated in the northern part of the country, had spread to areas in the south which had been untouched by conflict. It was estimated that there might now be a few thousand rebels in that part of the country. Meanwhile, the interruption of fishing in Lake Tanganyika -- causing supply problems in the capital -- demonstrated the determination of the armed forces to stop the movement of rebels to and from Zaire.

Serious differences had appeared between the President and the Prime Minister regarding negotiations with the armed opposition, the report states. While the President favours negotiations if the rebels give up violence, the Prime Minister has opposed any negotiations and invited the Tutsi community to arm itself. According to reports, arms have recently been distributed to civilians in Bujumbura and elsewhere. The situation has deteriorated to the point that senior parliamentarians have expressed concern that the armed forces might engage in reprisals against the Hutu population still living in Bujumbura and its suburbs.

The Secretary-General cites the latest report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, which speaks of a "creeping genocide". The ongoing effort of Tanzania's former President Julius Nyerere are taking place in a very tense environment and it will soon be known whether there is any chance of starting the envisaged dialogue. The European Union and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have stressed to Burundi's leadership that economic assistance would not be forthcoming while the political and security situations remain unstable. In response, the Prime Minister has disclaimed Burundi's need for foreign aid.

*********************************************************** WEEKLY ROUND UP OF MAIN EVENTS IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION 4-10 May 1996 (Excerpts)

# Burundi Prime Minister Antoine Nduwayo launched a civil defence plan on Friday which he said `seeks to organise and protect the Burundi population from criminals'. The plan had previously been opposed by the parliamentary majority party, FRODEBU. Nduwayo, who announced the plan last month and called for the arming of Burundi civilians, said that the Army would be increased by mobilizing reserve soldiers. There are reports that some arms and ammunition have already been distributed to civilians.

# Two new Governors were appointed last week for Gitega and Karuzi provinces. The new Governor for Gitega is a civilian, the other is an army officer - Burundi's fifth military provincial governor. The appointments came after two meetings of Burundi's National Security Council and several weeks of negotiations between the two main political parties.

# Investigations are continuing into allegations that the Burundi army and/or Tutsi militia killed approximately 235 civilians in Buhoro, Gitega on 26 April and were involved in another massacre in Kivyuka in Bubanza province on 3 May. Military authorities have confirmed that there was a confrontation between the Army and armed gangs in Buhoro, but have declined to comment on any incident in Kivyuka. Many Hutu officials are reported to have left Gitega town as a result of attacks against their residences. Four schools are also said to have been attacked by unknown assailants.

In the latest series of violence, the Army has accused Hutu rebels of killing six of their own people and wounding an unknown number in an overnight attack on a displaced persons' camp in the capital, Bujumbura. A Defence Ministry spokesman said that the attack was carried out on Wednesday night on the Johnson Centre, run by American Baptist missionaries. The attack coincided with the visit of US Special Envoy, Richard Bogosian, who began talks on Wednesday with Burundi Government officials and leaders of the Army on human rights issues and the alleged recent massacres. Another US diplomat, John Shattuck, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour was scheduled to visit Burundi at the weekend. Some 3,000 Burundians are reported to have fled to Zaire in the recent waves of violence, bringing the number of Burundians crossing into Zaire since April to 13,000. Pope John Paul appealed earlier in the week for a negotiated end to the violence in Burundi.

# Zairian Vice Prime Minister Jean Marie Kititwa was expected in Burundi on Sunday for talks with the government aimed at easing tensions between the two countries. Burundi has accused Zaire of sheltering and providing supplies to Hutu guerrillas. Rising tension has led to the closure of the Burundi-Zaire border.

# UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali urged member states on Tuesday to make plans for a standby force for Burundi in case of further deterioration into ethnic violence. In a report to the Security Council the Secretary-General said that states had expressed readiness in principle to consider providing such assistance, but none of them has yet volunteered to take the lead in planning, deploying and commanding the operation. Planning for a multinational force was beyond the capacity of the UN Secretariat, he said. The US Government, which has offered help with logistics, said that the UN should start the planning rather than wait for member countries. A team from Washington is due to visit New York to discuss and step up the contingency plans. A press release issed by the opposition CNDD strongly argued that the international community should not intervene militarily in Burundi unless it did so as a neutral mediator between all parties to the conflict and stated that any international effort outside of such guidelines would be " energetically fought by the Burundian people".

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Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 10:57:48 -0500 Subject: Burundi: Recent Documents