Youths Disrupt Burundi’s Capital
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Rowdy youths marched in Burundi’s capital on Monday and set up roadblocks to enforce a general strike calling for restoration of a tribal monarchy, police and a diplomat said.
The disturbances followed Sunday’s arrest of seven university students and an opposition politician, Mathias Hibimana, said an officer who answered the telephone at Bujumbura’s police headquarters.
A Western diplomat said Monday’s demonstrators put up roadblocks in some suburbs, discouraging workers from going to their jobs in the city center. Police dismantled the barriers, he said.
Hibimana, who heads the People’s Reconciliation Party, and about 200 students marched in the streets Sunday and were dispersed by police with tear gas, said the police officer, who identified himself only as Alfonse.
Hibimana is seeking the restoration of a Tutsi monarchy, abolished in 1966 when Burundi became a republic. The demand has been a stumbling block in talks among political parties on presidential succession, the diplomat said.
Interim President Sylvester Ntibantunganya asked the Constitutional Court last month to extend his term of office for three months to negotiate a power- sharing agreement.
Ntibantunganya’s predecessor, Cyprien Ntaryamira, died with the fellow Hutu president of neighboring Rwanda in an unexplained plane crash on April 6.
In the blood bath that ensued in Rwanda as many as 500,000 people died, most of them minority Tutsis killed by Hutu militias and army. The massacres reignited a war between the government and the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, which has since formed a new government.
Burundi’s Tutsis, who are outnumbered five to one by the Hutus, were traditional rulers until the country’s first democratic elections in June 1993, when a Hutu-dominated party won the presidency and the most seats in the legislature.
Relations between Hutus and Tutsis have deteriorated since the slaying last October of President Melchior Ndadaye in a failed military coup mounted by elements of the Tutsi-dominated military.
An estimated 100,000 people were killed in the bloodshed that followed. Aid workers, the United Nations and Western diplomats are trying to prevent a return of the violence.