Burundi Remains Defiant

News and Press Release
Originally published
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- Burundi's military strongman said Saturday that regional leaders who have isolated his country with damaging sanctions are likely to meet soon and maybe the situation will get better.''

Earlier Saturday, the military-appointed prime minister said Burundians already short on food and power should expect further sacrifices before the country's political and ethnic violence is resolved.

The central African country has been isolated by sanctions because of the Tutsi-dominated army's coup in July that ousted the Hutu president. Hutu rebel activity near the capital, Bujumbura, has further cut supplies.

Retired army Maj. Pierre Buyoya, who seized power in the coup, met Saturday in the northwestern Tanzania town of Musoma with former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, who is mediating among Burundi's factions.

''President Nyerere agreed to work on a summit of heads of state of the region in coming days in order to review the Burundi situation,'' Buyoya told reporters upon returning to Bujumbura.

Bujumbura is entering its third week without electricity. Rebel attacks often close roads surrounding the city.

Last week, Burundian troops went into the hills outside the capital to chase rebels who had prevented farmers from delivering food.

Prime Minister Pascal Ndamira said the situation likely would worsen.

''There will be more sickness, power cuts, road cuts and probably water cuts. But we are ready to fight for peace and pay the price,'' Ndamira said.

Burundi's foreign trade and transportation links were cut when eight African countries imposed sanctions on Aug. 9 to pressure Buyoya to restore parliament and the political parties he banned when he took over.

Nyerere, the primary international mediator, also has demanded Buyoya begin peace talks with Hutu rebels. But on Saturday Buyoya reiterated his refusal to do so.

On Friday and Saturday, representatives from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, Ethiopia and Zambia met in the northern Tanzania town of Arusha to discuss the effects of the sanctions. Eritrea was not represented.

The group said Saturday the United Nations would be allowed to import medical supplies, baby food and fuel for its own use, and diplomatic missions would also be allowed to import supplies for their own use.

It said the countries would also allow the United Nations to conduct flights on case-by-case basis for its staff, humanitarian agencies and diplomats.

From Bujumbura, Ndamira called on the delegates to lift the embargo immediately, saying it has hurt the peace process.

He said the sanctions have served to benefit those seeking to topple Buyoya: the Hutu-dominated National Council for the Defense of Democracy and its armed wing, Force for the Defense of Democracy.

''We have the impression and the conviction that the embargo favors one of the parties in the conflict and it favors the rebellion,'' Ndamira said.

More than 150,000 people have died in the army-rebel fighting since 1993. That year, Tutsi paratroopers killed Burundi's first democratically elected president, a Hutu.

Tutsis, who make up only 14 percent of Burundi's population of 5.6 million, have held power since Burundi gained independence from Belgium in 1962. Hutus are 85 percent of the population.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press