Burundi Seized By Sanctions

News and Press Release
Originally published
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- Efforts by the country's coup-installed leader to get crippling sanctions lifted have failed, dashing hopes for a quick end to an economic stranglehold on the tiny African country.

Maj. Pierre Buyoya said last week he would reinstate the legislature and repeal the ban of political parties he declared after the July 25 coup. But Tanzania, the gateway for goods moving in and out of land-locked Burundi, said Sunday those moves fall short of restoring constitutional rule.

That was one of the conditions laid down by the eight African nations who slapped sanctions on Burundi on Aug. 9. They also demanded that the Tutsi-led military government agree unconditionally to open talks with Hutu rebels.

In Friday's decree, Buyoya reinstated the Hutu-controlled National Assembly and lifted the ban on political parties.

But he also said he would redraft a new constitution, and regional leaders and Hutu politicians say he must restore the old one first. And he reiterated his willingness to open talks with the Hutu rebels but insisted they first lay down their weapons.

Assembly speaker Leonce Nyendakumana, a Hutu, is reportedly reviewing the presidential decree and negotiating for special security arrangements before agreeing to participate in the restored parliament.

Nyendakumana's participation is seen as crucial to the legitimacy of the assembly. Buyoya has warned that if the original assembly does not return to work by the scheduled October session, he will appoint his own.

Despite its democratically elected legislature and three Hutu presidents since 1993, Burundi has always been controlled by the Tutsi minority, which dominates the army. Tutsis accounts for 14 percent of the population of 5.6 million; Hutus comprise 85 percent.

Buyoya claimed the coup was the only way to end Burundi's ethnic bloodshed. About 150,000 people have been killed in political and ethnic violence since the 1993 elections he organized.

In the wake of the coup, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zaire, Zambia and Cameroon imposed stiff sanctions on Burundi, cutting trade and transportation links to press for the return of constitutional rule.

Buyoya is also under pressure from Tutsi extremists who believe Tutsi control of the government and military is the only way to prevent widespread slaughter of Tutsis, such as occurred in neighboring Rwanda in 1994. In that case, majority Hutus killed more than 500,000 people, mostly Tutsis.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press