U.N.: Burundi, Restore Gov't

News and Press Release
Originally published
By ROBERT H. REID Associated Press Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. Security Council called on Burundi's military leaders Monday to restore constitutional government, and urged all parties to refrain from actions that could trigger a Rwanda-style ethnic bloodbath.

But the 15-member council avoided an unequivocal condemnation of last week's military coup, which ousted Burundi's weak, ethnically mixed coalition government and installed Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, as president.

Instead, the council unanimously approved a statement condemning ''the actions that led to the overthrow of constitutional order'' in the Central African country.

In the Burundi capital of Bujumbura, Buyoya told foreign diplomats Monday that his supporters seized power to prevent ethnic violence between Hutus and Tutsis. He urged the international community to accept the change in government.

Since late 1993, at least 150,000 people have died in Burundi as Hutus combat Tutsi soldiers and Tutsi extremist militiamen.

In neighboring Rwanda, a systematic slaughter in 1994 killed an estimated half-million people, mostly Tutsis.

Hutus comprise about 85 percent of Burundi's 6 million people. But Tutsis historically have controlled the military and, therefore, the country.

Buyoya, who overthrew Jean-Baptiste Bagaza in a 1987 coup, lost the election he brought about in June 1993 to Melchior Ndadaye.

Ndadaye, the nation's first Hutu president, was killed four months later by Tutsi paratroopers in a failed coup.

On Monday, Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the Security Council has received a long-awaited report on the Ndadaye assassination.

But diplomats said council members refused to release it because of unspecified, "controversial'' findings. The refusal to make the document public fueled speculation that it links leading Tutsi figures to the assassination.

Diplomats of two Western countries, speaking on condition they not be identified by name or nationality, said council members feared release of the report might fuel passions and worsen the situation in Burundi.

In Monday's statement, the council urged Burundi's leaders to ''respect the Burundi constitution'' and respect human rights. It also called on the military leadership to protect the lives of deposed President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, who took refuge at the U.S. Embassy, and of 18 other Hutu politicians holed up at the German Embassy.

''The council stresses that the present situation in Burundi requires utmost restraint and calls upon all concerned to refrain from any actions and statements which could provoke further escalation of the crisis,'' its statement said.

U.N. officials and Security Council diplomats have long feared an ethnic explosion in Burundi. Last week, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali repeated his calls for a multinational force that can be quickly deployed to Burundi to prevent further violence there.

But few countries have offered soldiers. The Organization of African Unity is urging Burundi to accept an African peacekeeping force, but some military factions in the country oppose the offer.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press