Burundi's military confirms at least 30 Hutus killed in plantation attack

News and Press Release
Originally published
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (Jul 30, 1996 00:41 a.m. EDT) -- Civilian reports that Burundi's Tutsi-led army killed dozens of Hutus in retaliation for a rebel attack at a coffee plantation met today with conflicting government response.
Lt. Col. Longin Minani said the rebels attacked the plantation, setting it ablaze near Gitega, 50 miles east of the capital, Bujumbura, overnight Friday, and the army retaliated by "killing a few Hutu rebels."

Asked how many a few was, Minani, the military spokesman, said: "Thirty. That's a few because there were a lot of them."

Later, he said the information he gave The Associated Press was unconfirmed and he was awaiting further details.

Hutu civilians in the area told Western reporters that at least 50 and as many as 150 people were killed by the Tutsi troops Saturday, although the journalists saw no graves and no dead bodies. There were no other details immediately available.

Charles Kaburahe, a director of the state-run coffee company, said the rebels burned a small coffee factory in Giheta, seven miles west of Gitega. "Three tons of coffee were destroyed and some electronic equipment was stolen, but no employees were hurt," he said.

Pierre Buyoya, the new Tutsi president installed by the military last week in a bloodless coup, urged foreign diplomats in Burundi today to accept the forced change of government in the tiny African nation.

"The international community has warned against genocide in Burundi and it was to stop this from happening that I accepted this responsibility," the 46-year-old military leader told ambassadors and diplomats. "You have to understand that we could not let the situation deteriorate further."

The international community has condemned the coup and no country has recognized Buyoya (pronounced boo-YO-yah) as the new president of Burundi. The U.S. has said it will not accept any government that comes to power by force or intimidation.

U.S. Abassador Morris Hughes said the briefing was reassuring.

"We all want the same thing, peace and security in Burundi," Hughes said. He did not say if the United States would accept Buyoya.

On Sunday, Buyoya said world leaders who want to help end ethnic violence in his tiny Central African country should keep their troops at home and send mediators instead. East African leaders have proposed sending in foreign troops to restore peace to Burundi.

"The idea of intervention of foreign troops has been very badly received by the Burundian population, and personally I don't believe that this can be the solution," Buyoya said Sunday.

Instead, he said neighboring countries and mediators should help facilitate "a real political dialogue" between the warring factions.

Buyoya, a retired army major, promised to restore discipline in the military because the 20,000 troops trust him.

"To restore peace and security is first to restore discipline in the military," Buyoya said. "We are going to do all we can to stop the killing. It will not be easy."

Supporters of the coup that ousted Burundi's weak, ethnically mixed coalition government say Buyoya will be able to control the army and police. Skeptics note the 1988 bloodshed under Buyoya's previous leadership, when the army killed 15,000 Hutus, mostly civilians.

Since late 1993, after Buyoya left office the first time, at least 150,000 people have died as Hutus have taken up arms against Tutsi soldiers and extremist militiamen, who have killed Hutu civilians to clear them from once ethnically mixed areas.

Hutus are in the majority -- 85 percent of Burundi's 6 million people -- but Tutsis historically have controlled the military and, therefore, the country. Burundi is 14 percent Tutsi.

The deposed Hutu president, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya (pronounced en-tee-bahn-toon-gan-yah) sought refuge Tuesday night at the U.S. ambassador's residence. A security guard outside the residence said Ntibantunganya was still there today.

A rebel leader vowed today to topple the new government.

"Do not worry too much about this ... regime because its days are numbered," Leonard Nyangoma, leader of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy, said in a statement sent to news agencies in Kenya.

"We have committed ourselves to combat any anti-democratic regime and we give you the assurance that we shall succeed."

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