Burundi Military Behind 1993 Assassination of President

News and Press Release
Originally published
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Burundi army officers were apparently behind the 1993 assassination of the nation's first Hutu president, which triggered widespread ethnic fighting in the country, a U.N. report concludes.

The report, a copy of which was obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press, said "the planning and execution of the coup was carried out by officers highly placed in the line of command of the Burundian army."

The failed coup attempt and the subsequent murder of leading Hutus led to ethnic slaughter in which at least 150,000 people died, most of them Hutus.

The report was sent to the Security Council after Burundi's Tutsi-led military ousted the government last month and put in power a Tutsi major, Pierre Buyoya. The report was considered so sensitive that the council at first suppressed its release, fearing it could lead to increased ethnic tensions.

The council decided Friday to make the findings public later this month, after it appeared that fears of an explosion of ethnic violence in Burundi were unwarranted.

According to the report, army chief of staff Jean Bikomagu apparently brought President Melchoir Ndadaye and his wife and children to an army base.

The president's wife said Bikomagu told soldiers: "This is the man you want. Do whatever you want with him."

Bikomagu denied saying those words. Ndadaye's family was not harmed.

Ndadaye was brought to another base where two soldiers apparently held a cord around his neck as another stabbed him to death, the report said.

On Tuesday, Buyoya sacked Bikomagu, the chief of the national police and the head of presidential security.

Burundian military officers told the U.N. commission that the assassination was carried out by rebellious soldiers who threatened to kill their superiors if they did not cooperate.

The report noted, however, that the officers' testimony was filled with contradictions and the panel was not permitted to interview many enlisted men and was denied access to military records.

The commission was established last year to investigate the assassination and the ensuing massacres, interviewed 667 witnesses.