Burundi Killing Said To Be Up

News and Press Release
Originally published
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Burundi Army troops shot thousands of Hutu villagers to death recently after they denied knowledge of the whereabouts of Hutu rebels, Amnesty International says.

The human rights organization reported Thursday that 6,000 Burundians have died since Major Pierre Buyoya took power a month ago promising to put an end to tribal warfare in Burundi.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official said Thursday that the United Nations is ill-prepared to intervene in Burundi despite months of planning.

''I believe the international community is many months behind where it ought to be,'' the official said on condition he not be identified.

The Amnesty report, which could not be independently confirmed, said at least 4,050 unarmed civilians were buried after being ''extrajudicially executed'' between July 27 and Aug. 10 by Tutsi-dominated military forces in Gitega province.

''Most of these victims were killed after the army came to their villages, ostensibly to obtain information about movements of rebels,'' the report said. ''Soldiers then assembled the victims and shot them, apparently after they denied knowledge of the whereabouts of rebels.''

''We are disturbed that as many people have been massacred since the coup as were reported killed in the preceding three months,'' the London-based group said.

Buyoya denied there have been any recent massacres.

Although they account for only 14 percent of Burundi's 6 million people, Tutsis historically have controlled the nation's army. Hutus make up 85 percent of the population.

The U.S. official's comments about U.N. preparations reinforced a report issued this week by U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who said only three countries have offered to volunteer soldiers for a possible intervention force.

Boutros-Ghali recommended that a force of 50,000 be assembled to prevent violence and provide relief assistance. Among the countries refusing to dispatch troops is the United States, which has said its contribution will be limited to logistics, communication and transport.

The U.S. official, who monitors events in Burundi closely, said fear and insecurity pervade the country, where an estimated 150,000 have died in tribal violence since 1993.

''I don't think I ever remember seeing a society which is as deeply polarized as Burundian society,'' the official said. He added that the country has ''extraordinary genocidal potential.''

The U.S. official said the United States is supporting a regional African effort aimed at achieving an all-party peace negotiation as well as a more equitable power distribution in the country.

Morton Abramowitz, a former U.S. diplomat who heads the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, expressed frustration with the passive attitude worldwide to the slaughter in Burundi.

''Nobody has taken action to catalyze an international response,'' Abramowitz said in a telephone interview. ''Everybody hopes something will happen that will preclude the necessity of sending troops.''

He said electoral considerations prevent the Clinton administration from playing a more assertive role in Burundi.

''I know how difficult it is to get something done during an election campaign,'' he said.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press