Burundian Meets Businessmen

News and Press Release
Originally published
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- Military ruler Maj. Pierre Buyoya tried Saturday to soothe business leaders' fears of economic ruin in the face of a regional economic blockade that is close to paralyzing Burundi.

''I am confident that the sanctions will be lifted in the near future,'' said Buyoya. He said talks with mediators were continuing daily, but he would not elaborate on how, why or when the three-week-old blockade might end.

All trade and transport links between this landlocked central African nation and the outside world have been cut by eight African nations to protest the July 25 coup that brought Buyoya to power for a second time.

Upon seizing power, Buyoya pledged that he would end ethnic violence that has left more than 150,000 dead since he lost Burundi's first democratic presidential election in 1993.

But rebel attacks on production centers in the countryside and electrical pylons carrying power to the capital have left most Burundian factories closed and the capital without power for the last week.

The local brewery, which supplies the government with 40 percent of its tax revenue, and other large businesses are using diesel-powered generators for power. The supply of fuel is expected to run out soon.

''We have about two weeks maximum, and then business people will start closing their enterprises,'' said Prime Nyamoya, an economic consultant in Bujumbura. ''If they last that long.''

Regional leaders want Buyoya to restore Burundi's National Assembly, the constitution and political parties, and agree to talks with all political forces in Burundi before the sanctions will be lifted.

Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, who heads the negotiations to end the crisis, has also demanded that Buyoya, a member of the country's Tutsi minority, begin talks with rebels from the Hutu majority.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press