Kangura No. 4

Who Will Put an End to the Carnage of Hutus Perpetrated by the Bujumbura Regime?

Issa Nyabyenda

It is the government-owned press! Nothing can be done about it. However, quite a few people have been amazed to hear one Radio Burundi journalist declare on Christmas morning that President Buyoya was “incontestably… the champion of peace and national unity.” At every turn, that journalist who was reading the 11:00 news aired excerpts of speeches delivered by the Major-cum-President, extolling national unity. But all those speeches are inundating the population which is in vain, as all the arrests in Burundi involve innocent Hutus.

You will recall that during his talks with the people of the Gasagara-Muyira area in Kanyosha commune, President Buyoya explained that his security slogan concerned the entire population and not solely the police and army, while pointing out that the tasks were distributed. One must be candid and face the events in Burundi by asking the following question: is it true that tasks are distributed between the forces of law and order and the population, when the Hutu majority lives in insecurity?

As a matter of fact, the Charter for National Unity that is often extolled in political circles has always been synonymous with Batutsi unity against the other components of the national population. Hence, the prevalence of different rules for the arbitrary arrest of Hutus, acts of provocation, torture, cold-blooded murders, not to talk of intimidation, via the media, which constitutes a blood-stained badge for the ruling regime. Basically, there is no security in a country where the slogan of the leaders is injustice or, worse still, oppression and suppression.

It is quite inconceivable for a personality whose very acts threaten the security to fool the whole world by claiming that his people had voted for the Charter for National Unity by an overwhelming majority. Everybody knows how elections are run in a single-party state these days. Worse still, it was under the Buyoya regime that the Burundian Intelligence Service assassinated the late Rémy Gahutu, founder of the Palipehutu party. This example alone amply demonstrates that, not only is Burundi aspiring to creating a glossy image of herself on the international scene, but the Tutsis are afraid to share power with the other ethnic groups, the Hutus and Twas.

It is high time one pointed out that as long as international public opinion continues to rely solely on the official version of the massacres, Burundi will always remain the theater of bloody events. It would be more advisable to take into account the opinion of those speaking on behalf of the victims. We need men of good will to convince President Buyoya that the best way to guarantee national security it would be necessary[missing text] form a National Army comprising Hutus, Tutsis and Twas; such a structure must be designed in a manner as to inspire the confidence of all the ethnic components of the population.

The morose atmosphere under which the Hutus of Burundi have lived, and continue to live, under the skies of their beloved fatherland (against all odds) is a source grave concern to human rights defenders. It would appear that the western world that zealously undertakes to defend human rights in the Third World do so for their own interests, and there is ample evidence to that effect. Do you recall the capital sentence Ayatollah Khomeini passed on the author of The Satanic Verses? To speak the truth, Salman was protected, and rightly so, by almost all the industrialized countries. Nevertheless, such protection revealed that the western world was capable of attaching more importance to an individual than to entire communities. There is, for instance, the case of Palestinians, and South African blacks, and why not the Burundian Hutus? If the same countries that set out to protect a single individual did the same for peoples who have borne the brunt of injustices, such as gratuitous torture, arbitrary imprisonment and unprecedented massacres, the world would be a happier place to live.

It is now or never that all embassies accredited to Bujumbura should snap out of the silence they have lapsed into since June when the secret arrest of Hutus started. The embassies should not allow themselves to be cowed by the blatant violations by the Burundian Government. Investigations for international public opinion need to be swiftly mobilized against the carnage perpetrated by ruling regime in Bujumbura. You should know, your Excellencies, that it is no longer a question of limiting yourselves to information from official sources like what was broadcast on 25 December 1991 at 11:00 A.M. As a matter of fact, Channel 2 of the Burundi national radio disseminated information that the Rwandans who had taken refuge in their embassy in Bujumbura did so to withdraw, as “it would appear” they could no longer hold out. This is an underhanded way of implicating Rwanda in the bloody maneuvers organized by the Burundian Government.

Why such silence, Your Excellencies?

Even if you wonder about what to do, prepare yourself for a shock: we have reliable, but terrifying information from the investigations conducted by the special envoys of the International Human Rights League. Among those envoys we recall a certain Filip Reyntjens: on 9 December 1991, the Commission of Inquiry set up by that League discovered a mass grave in which the Government of Burundi had buried 250 bodies. In another mass grave, the same tragedy was witnessed on 17 December 1991. This time there were 176 bodies. The same witness affirms that during those events, 456 people who were suspected of complicity with Palipehutu were officially arrested. In the opinion of Filip Reyntjens, there is reason to wonder about the fate of those persons who were arrested under the same circumstances. An average of 200 people are killed daily and the overall figure since the beginning of the events is alleged to exceed 18,000. It is worthy of note that as a proof of bad faith on the part of the Burundian authorities, Mr. Filip Reyntjens was not authorized to snap photographs of those atrocities. But he told Kangura newspaper that he would go all the way with his testimony on the horrible events rocking Burundi.