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Regional Leaders Call For Return to Constitutional Order in Burundi

July 31, 1996

ARUSHA, Tanzania (AP) _ African regional leaders today condemned last week’s military coup in Burundi and held out the possibility of imposing sanctions on the new regime.

A statement issued today said the leaders were committed to putting ``all necessary pressure on the regime in Bujumbura, including sanctions.″

``The regional summit ... reiterates the necessity to end the illegality and restore constitutional order,″ said the statement read by Foreign Minister Joseph Clemence Rwegasira of Tanzania.

Leaders of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Cameroon, Zaire and the 53-nation Organization of African Unity attended today’s meeting, convened in response to Thursday’s coup by Burundi’s Tutsi-led military.

The coup created a new set of problems for Burundi’s neighbors, and their options appear limited: more _ and probably futile _ negotiations between Tutsis and Hutus, or a highly unpopular peacekeeping force.

Since the assassination of Burundi’s Hutu president by Tutsi paratroopers three years ago, at least 150,000 people _ mostly civilians _ have been killed.

Burundi’s new Tutsi leader, Maj. Pierre Buyoya (pronounced boo-YO-yah), has been trying to convince the international community that the coup was necessary to prevent more ethnic bloodshed.

But the coup has increased fears that such violence might occur, and that it might spark a new exodus of refugees to neighboring countries.

Buyoya was not invited to the summit, but Burundi did send a three-man delegation.

The African leaders called on the new regime to restore the national legislature and lift the ban on political parties. They did not rule out the possibility of putting together an international intervention force to maintain order in the country.

Despite the strong words, the leaders implicitly recognized that the ouster of President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya is a fait accompli.

Buyoya was standing his ground, announcing today that he had named Pascal Fermin Ndimira, a Hutu, to be his prime minister. Ndimira is an agricultural engineer and had been a consultant for the World Bank.

Reached by telephone at his office in Bujumbura, military spokesman Lt. Col. Nicodemus Nduhirubusa said the new regime could tolerate sanctions, adding that ``between sanctions and death, we prefer sanctions.″

He said he wanted people to understand that ``the situation was worsening″ and that ``there was no other measure that we could have undertaken.″

Aldo Ajello, the European Union’s envoy to the region, said the leaders had only two options _ to pick up with negotiations already begun under the previous regime or to prepare for a military intervention in case of escalating violence.

``Personally, I think the margin for negotiations is very narrow,″ Ajello said. ``The present government is, after all, the result of a coup d’etat.″

Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, under U.N. auspices, began negotiations this year between Burundi’s main Hutu and Tutsi political parties.

But the talks included neither the army nor the Zaire-based Hutu rebels, who have refused to negotiate until the 15,000-member, Tutsi-dominated army returns to barracks.

At a June 25 summit in Arusha, Ntibantunganya (pronounced en-tee-bahn-toon-gan-yah) and Burundi’s then-Prime Minister Antoine Nduwayo appealed for the first time for outside help to staunch the bloodshed.

The Tutsis rejected the appeal as a ploy to destroy the army. They represent only 14 percent of Burundi’s 6 million people, and see any attempt to diminish their hold on the military as a threat.

The controversy over a military intervention force may have helped trigger the July 25 coup.

The United Nations has been pleading with its members to set up a force that could go into Burundi if ethnic violence worsens. But only Chad, Malawi and Zambia have offered troops; most major powers are reluctant to get involved in a potentially bloody situation that has little strategic or economic potential.

The U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs said today there had been a significant increase in the flow of refugees from Burundi into Zaire in the last two months, when as many as 50,000 new arrivals are said to have arrived at camps near the border.

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