Hutu Rebels Block Capital City

News and Press Release
Originally published
MAGEYO, Burundi (AP) -- Hutu rebels have dug a 3-foot trench across a key highway in an effort to isolate the capital, Bujumbura.

The ditch, located a few miles north of this abandoned mountain village, halted traffic along the road to and from the capital. Mageyo is 12 miles northeast of Bujumbura.

The rebels are trying to isolate Bujumbura because the new military government of Maj. Pierre Buyoya is based there along with most members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group.

The food and fuel shortage has been worsened by severed trade and transport links with regional countries. The African nations imposed the measures to force a return to constitutional rule and talks with opposition and rebels after Buyoya seized power July 25.

Since October 1993, at least 150,000 people have been killed in the ethnic violence that erupted when Tutsi paratroopers murdered Melchoir Ndadaye, the country's first popularly elected Hutu president.

Hutus make up 85 percent of Burundi's population of 6 million. Tutsis account for nearly all the rest.

Despite their minority status, Tutsis have long held power in Burundi and staged the July coup to overthrow Hutu President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya and his weak coalition government.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council on Friday threatened to consider an arms embargo against Burundi if the country's leaders and rebels do not begin unconditional talks by Oct. 31.

The resolution, adopted unanimously, was a watered-down version of a Chilean proposal to impose an arms embargo. Major council members, including the United States, have been reluctant to take direct action with the situation in Burundi so unstable.

In the resolution, the council condemned the coup and called for an immediate halt to fighting between the Tutsi-led military and Hutu rebels.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press