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Ex-Burundi President Returns

June 29, 2002

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BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) _ A former Burundian president returned from self-imposed exile Saturday, promising to contribute to the troubled central African country’s future.

Former military ruler Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, who is opposed to the current power-sharing government in Burundi, returned home after four years outside the country, most of it spent in Uganda.

``I am coming back home to contribute to a better future for the country″ Bagaza said. ``Security is not complete here but there has been some improvement.″

Bagaza, a Tutsi army officer who came to power in a 1976 coup, was overthrown by the current president, Pierre Buyoya in 1987. Buyoya then organized the country’s first democratic elections in 1993, and Burundi elected its first president from the Hutu majority.

Former President Melchoir Ndadaye was assassinated by Tutsi paratroopers that same year, but replaced with another Hutu. Buyoya staged another coup in 1996 and last year signed a power-sharing agreement with Hutu politicians.

But Hutu rebels, who took up arms in 1993, continue to fight the Tutsi-dominated army.

Bagaza lived in Uganda from 1987 to 1993 and fled to Uganda again in 1998 after Buyoya put him under house arrest for allegedly plotting another coup.

Bagaza represents the most hard line Tutsi political party, which believe in preserving the dominance that Tutsis have enjoyed over the army, government and economy since independence in 1962.

Bagaza said he will preside over his PARENA party’s national congress next Saturday.

Under the power-sharing agreement, Bagaza said he has chosen to be guarded by a South African army unit sent to protect the transitional government.

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