Kangura No. 35

Editorial: President Buyoya Can Still Save the Situation

They are not of the same age, they do not have the same tastes, nor did they go to the same school and their accession to power did not follow the same trend. One is white, the other black; and yet they are characterized by a striking fundamental resemblance: they both belong to the minority race and govern countries with heterogeneous populations. Guess who I am talking about…

Established in 1910 from the federation of the Cape, Natal, Orange and Transvaal States, then British colonies, the South African Union became a Republic in 1960. It is composed of about 70% blacks, 10% coloureds and Indians, and 20% whites, but the latter control all power through a system of institutionalized segregation.

But by a stroke of bad luck, this apartheid country has had the privilege of being somehow linked to a country somewhere in Central Africa not far from Rwanda, namely Burundi, where the Tutsi minority (15% of the population) have monopolized the reins of State power, particularly the army, which, moreover, frequently carries out systematic massacres of the majority Hutu population.

In a human society which is being civilized at a frantic pace and where the wind of democratic change has almost reached a point of no return, it appears impossible, if not suicidal, to bank on a recourse to the most backward physical and intellectual genocide to desperately cling to power… [illegible text] that the only way forward in the search for any national reconciliation is to share power between the various components of the South African society. The referendum, which the people and Mandela’s A.N.C. have just won, is clear evidence of this.

Unfortunately, however, in the case of their Hamite colleague, Major Buyoya, the march to true democracy seems to be losing pace, with potentially tragic consequences. The adoption of the famous Unity Charter and the recent pompous popular vote, particularly on selective multiparty politics, were nothing but a cynical gimmick. Any positive development on the Burundi political situation must begin with stopping and for all, the killings that have constantly plagued the Hutu people and their integration in all the circles of civilian and military authority. Enticing statements stained with Bantu blood will only continue to mislead the public, both nationally and internationally.

But the so-called moderate President can still save the tragically explosive situation. And by doing so, he would have had the rare opportunity of having his name highlighted in the annals of the Burundi people and among personalities who have achieved great things on this earth. And, admittedly, Buyoya is a good and exemplary Head of State.

It is, therefore, up to him to strike the iron when it is still hot and use his presidential powers to fight all the odds against democratic and popular principles to ensure that they are firmly put in practice. For the moment, it would be ill-advised to put all the power in the hands of possible future advocates of revenge, for the understandable reason that the wounds are still too fresh. But, all the same, one could already start embarking on some changes, slowly but surely, in the government circles by directly bringing in more and more Hutus in all the fields, for the effective management of public affairs.

His recklessness in the face of the multiple ultra-extremist tendencies among some of his people and the activism of an ethnically-biased opposition could be strengthened, but in a more acceptable manner. Appointing a Hutu Prime Minister—should that ever be the case—must not be only a purely symbolic or folkloric gesture. Such a Prime Minister must freely assume full powers by virtue of a democratic constitution. Other senior appointments should also take into account the need to improve the image of a country hitherto considered to be - and justifiably - the last bastion of the most despicable form of discrimination. All the other efforts would then be crowned with resounding and enduring success if this time the Tutsi authorities accept to recruit young Hutus into the national army. And, finally, the ridiculously childish verbal and sometimes military attacks, as well as the shamefully false statements against sensible Rwanda by regimes based on a Nilotic minority on the run, which have been the constant cause of an atmosphere of perpetual suspicion and unnecessary tension, should be brought to an end. In its natural diversity, Burundi will therefore enjoy an era of peace, ethnic unity and social well-being of the masses.