Burundi: Military Government restores parliament and political parties

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (CP) -- Seven weeks after a coup, Burundi's military-led government on Thursday restored Parliament and lifted a ban on political parties, officials said.
"The assembly is restored in its original form and there are no conditions on political parties," Jean-Luc Ndizeye, spokesman for the military government, said after the announcement was made on state-run radio.

Military ruler Maj. Pierre Buyoya seized power on July 25, dissolving Parliament, suspending the constitution and banning political parties. President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya fled to the U.S. ambassador's residence, where he remains.

The constitution remains suspended, enabling Buyoya to remain in control.

UN officials said the change in the military's attitude followed frequent contacts by Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and assistant secretary general Lansana Kouyate with Buyoya and others in Burundi and in the region.

The government's move also apparently was an attempt to persuade neighboring countries to ease the sanctions they imposed Aug. 9, cutting all trade and transportation links until a constitutional form of government was restored. The countries also demanded that the Tutsi-dominated military begin peace talks with Hutu rebels.

At a Sunday news conference, Buyoya said he would only talk to rebel groups after they renounced violence and genocide as methods of political change.

Buyoya said he staged the coup because it was the only way to stop the ethnic violence in Burundi which has claimed more than 150,000 lives since 1993.

He also accused Ntibantunganya and his Hutu-dominated FRODEBU political party of organizing a genocide against Tutsis, who make up only 14 per cent of the population in Burundi.

Although they are a minority, Tutsis have managed to maintain control of the country through their domination of the military.

They have had control since independence in 1960, and held on to it despite elections in 1993 that elected the country's first Hutu president. President Melchoir Ndadaye was assassinated six months later by the Tutsi-dominated military.

Ndizeye said FRODEBU, which holds a majority in Parliament, would be allowed to reopen offices in Burundi.

But he said he did not know whether the FRODEBU speaker of Parliament, who has taken refuge in the German ambassador's residence, would return to preside over the reconstituted parliament. Some FRODEBU leaders who fled the country following the coup have called on FRODEBU members to support rebel groups.

Buyoya was scheduled to give more details today on the latest moves and to indicate whether he would call Parliament into session before its next scheduled meeting in October.

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