UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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 emergency.
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 ago.
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 coup.
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 committed.
> 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.
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VOICE OF AMERICA REPORT
DATE=7/31/96 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-201050 TITLE=BURUNDI / SUMMIT (L) BYLINE=SCOTT STEARNS DATELINE=ARUSHA, TANZANIA
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 PEOPLE.
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 CIVIL INSTALLATIONS.
BURUNDI'S TUTSI-LED ARMY AND HUTU REBELS HAVE BOTH REJECTED OUTSIDE INTERVENTION, SAYING IT WOULD VIOLATE NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY.
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).
Message-Id: <199608012340.QAA18152@igc3.igc.apc.org> From: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Thu, 1 Aug 1996 19:37:49 -0500 Subject: Burundi: USCR Statement/VOA Report
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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