African Leaders Try to Stop Burundi Bloodshed

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Reuter) - Officials from five African states met Tuesday to draw up plans for a multinational force to stop bloodshed in Burundi.
Tanzanian Defense Minister Edgar Maokola Majogo said Tuesday's talks followed foreign and defense ministers from Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda Monday appointing a technical sub-committee.

Kenya and Zaire failed to turn up for the talks.

''We have delegated the nitty-gritty to a sub-committee to tailor how to meet the request from Burundi,'' he told Reuters.

''We must create a force capable of guaranteeing security in Burundi and providing the right atmosphere for (former Tanzanian president Julius) Nyerere's peace effort,'' Majogo said.

Nyerere, the internationally backed mediator on Burundi, has said his peace negotiations to end the crisis are deadlocked.

''The root cause of this whole thing (regional initiative) is that Burundi is marching unimpeded toward genocide and it is important that we do not fold our hands,'' Majogo said.

Massacres and ethnic war between the Tutsi-dominated army and Hutu rebels in Burundi have killed more than 150,000 people in the past three years, raising fears of slaughter on a scale similar to Rwanda's genocide of up to a million people in 1994.

Diplomats said the regional security assistance plan envisioned a foreign security force of mainly Tanzanian and Ugandan troops to protect politicians, civil servants and key installations.

But key issues such as the force's mandate and command structure are still under discussion and Burundi's government, army and Tutsi militants remain bitterly divided over the plan.

The technical sub-committee, chaired by General Robert Mboma, head of Tanzania's defense forces, will visit Burundi for more talks before submitting its report to the Organization of African Unity, the United Nations and regional heads of state.

The full session of foreign and defense ministers broke up late Monday after forming the sub-committee.

Western diplomats in Burundi's capital said Monday the government asked for the technical committee's talks to be postponed to Friday and for its venue to be moved to Bujumbura.

The committee was set up by regional leaders last week after Burundi's Hutu president and Tutsi prime minister gave in to international pressure to take regional steps to halt ethnic violence.

U.N. officials said Tuesday more than 4,400 Burundian Hutus had fled to neighboring Rwanda and eastern Zaire from violence in Burundi's troubled northwestern region of Cibitoke.

The refugees including 150 unaccompanied children crossed into Rwanda's southwestern border region of Cyangugu from Thursday to Sunday and to Uvira, Zaire, from Saturday to Monday, they said.

Some 2,510 went to Cyangugu and almost 1,900 to Uvira.

''There is fighting in Cibitoke and reports from the refugees speak of some deaths in Cibitoke before they left. But it is unclear whether this is rebels or the army,'' one official said.

Lack of security has made Cibitoke a no-go area for western aid workers. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the last aid agency working in Cibitoke, pulled out of Burundi early in June after three of its Swiss staff were killed in an ambush.

Copyright ) 1996 Reuters Limited.


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