Human Rights Developments

In Burundi, soldiers and their civilian allies slaughtered innocent victims virtually daily. The army, composed largely of Tutsi (who make up about 15 percent of the population), operated at the command of radical Tutsi leaders rather than under the orders of the ineffective civilian government, nominally controlled by the Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU), a political party that encompasses many of the majority Hutu. Under the guise of reprisals for attacks on the military or of campaigns to disarm the population, soldiers repeatedly attacked Hutu neighborhoods in the cities as well as Hutu communities in the countryside. The military attacks were replicated on a smaller scale by army-backed militia who terrorized city populations and by killers who assassinated Hutu political and community leaders. Through a combination of violence, intimidation, and political blockage, Tutsi-dominated factions re-appropriated the political control they had lost at the polls in June 1993. Meanwhile the largely Hutu National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD), based in Zaire, and the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People (PALIPEHUTU), based in Tanzania, won supporters away from the weakening and more moderate FRODEBU. They stepped up attacks by their own militia who targeted soldiers primarily but who also killed unarmed Tutsi civilians. According to a July report by the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Burundi, some 800 civilians and one hundred soldiers were slain per month by both sides, meaning that more than 10,000 people may have been killed by the end of the year. None of the killers was brought to trial, just as none of those responsible for the 1993 assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye or the subsequent massacres was brought to trial; indeed, many of them continued to hold important positions of leadership. Media from both sides thrived on encouraging the violence between Hutu and Tutsi, while local and foreign arms dealers profited from easy and extensive sales of guns and grenades. The Hutu and Tutsi populations, who had once lived intermingled, were increasingly driven into ethnically segregated areas. As a result of military and militia attacks, Hutu fled most neighborhoods of the capital of Bujumbura. Some 300,000 Tutsi, afraid to return to the homes they had left in 1993 violence, clustered in camps near towns and urban centers where they enjoyed military protection. The facade of a civilian democratic government was left in place, but elected officials were repeatedly held hostage by radical Tutsi leaders and youth gangs who used "dead city" demonstrations to attain their goals. In late December 1994, for example, FRODEBU officials were forced to replace the president of the National Assembly, and in February 1995 they were obliged to accept both a change in the prime minister and the inclusion of small Tutsi splinter parties in the cabinet after Tutsi youth gangs used grenades, arson, and attacks to interrupt all normal activity in the capital of Bujumbura. In late March, in April, in June and again in July, the military, supported by militias, attacked the Hutu neighborhoods of Bujumbura, each time killing hundreds of civilians. Outside of the capital, soldiers and their civilian allies killed at least seventy people at Butaganzwa commune, Kayanza province in January; as many as 400 in Gasorwe commune in Muyinga province; some 200 in Mutumba commune in Karuzi province in March; and an estimated 250 others in Ngozi province in late October. In addition, military operations in the hills overlooking the capital and immediately adjacent rural regions took hundreds of lives during the month of July. Two Tutsi militia were principally responsible for terrorizing civilian in the cities, one called the Sans Echecs (The Infallibles) and the other, the Sans Defaits (The Undefeated). They recruited among high school and university students and also among the urban unemployed, and threatened moderate young Tutsi unwilling to join their ranks. Soldiers helped train these militia, and soldiers and police generally did not intervene to halt militia attacks or to arrest those involved. The spread of violence among students was underlined by a Tutsi militia's slaughter of some two dozen Hutu students at the University of Bujumbura on June 12. Several weeks later, a Hutu militia group attacked the Kiriri university campus and killed six Tutsi, four of them students. During the funeral procession for these victims, an armed group fired sub-machine guns and threw grenades at the mourners, killing ten and wounding fourteen persons. Some thirty secondary school students were slain and scores more injured in more than a dozen attacks on schools throughout the year. In the countryside, armed groups of displaced Tutsi frequently attacked and killed Hutu living their camps, often with the clear complicity of the local military or police. The providers of humanitarian aid, increasingly burdened by the need to supply food also to the mostly Hutu Rwandan refugees who fled to Burundi after the 1994 genocide, decided to reduce aid to displaced persons with a goal of stopping it completely during the course of 1995. Extremist Tutsi played on the differences in aid distributed to the Tutsi displaced and that given to Hutu refugees to whip up hatred against both refugees and humanitarian workers. In April a Greek employee of a humanitarian agency was assassinated, supposedly for favoring Hutu refugees over Tutsi displaced people. The Forces pour la defense de la democratie (Forces for the Defense of Democracy, FDD), the military wing of the exiled CNDD, and its rival, the PALIPEHUTU, attacked a number of military targets during the year. The FDD, based in Zaire, operated largely in northwestern Burundi, where it was reportedly responsible for killing fifteen Burundian army soldiers at Mabayi in Cibitoke province in March. In Zaire its troops sometimes trained with the forces of the former Rwandan government, and they may have carried out joint military operations in Burundi. The PALIPEHUTU troops, based in Tanzania, attacked in northeastern Burundi, where they apparently killed a number of Burundi army soldiers in Gasorwe and Mabayi communes. Hutu forces attacked Tutsi civilians, especially those in camps for the displaced. In late October, for example, they killed some forty persons at a camp in Kayonza province. In Bujumbura, a Hutu militia known as the Intagoheka (Those Who Never Close Their Eyes), was responsible for random attacks against Tutsi. Both Hutu and Tutsi used assassinations and threats to silence opposing leaders, and even moderates of their own ethnic group. In January, the governor of Muyinga province was stabbed to death. In March the minister of energy and mines, Ernest Kabusheyeme was killed at mid-day in downtown Bujumbura. Two days later a former highly ranked military officer and government official was abducted and later found killed, apparently in retaliation for the killing of Minister Kabushemeye. Some twenty other local government officials were also assassinated in the course of the year, and attacks were made on many others. Four leaders of the FRODEBU party were captured and killed in the first week of June, and the deputy who heads the FRODEBU group in the parliament escaped an attempted assassination in mid-September. In addition, five Burundian priests and one Adventist pastor had been slain as of late October. The killers took aim at foreigners as well. On June 14, American Ambassador Robert Krueger, the special representative of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), Leandre Bassole, and Burundian Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ngendahayo were ambushed. The dignitaries escaped unhurt, but two soldiers accompanying their convoy were killed, and nine other persons were injured. On September 30, two Italian priests and an Italian lay sister were murdered in the southern province of Bururi. Newspapers from both sides incited violence against their opponents. Le Carrefour des Idees published a scorecard of Hutu leaders "who feel threatened." Next to each name was a blank square under the heading "fate." One week before the assassination of Minister Kabushemeye, the same newspaper listed him as number seven of a group of Hutu said to "have murdered Tutsi" and "spread terror." La Nation, a newspaper run by former president Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, published a story attacking U.S. Ambassador Krueger and the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general, Amedou Ould Abdallah, under the headline "Two to beat up or to gun down." On April 10, the newspaper L'Etoile accused Ambassador Krueger of "fanning the flames" of conflict and said, "The day may come when patriotic Barundis will make him pay. This would be a legitimate act." Radio Rutomorangingo (Radio Truth), which broadcasts intermittently from Zaire, called on Hutu to kill Tutsi before the Tutsi kill them first. In late March, Army Chief of Staff Jean Bikomagu acknowledged that national police forces under his command had been responsible for massacres that had just taken place in Bujumbura. Official commissions were established to investigate the slaughter in Gasorwe commune and the June massacres in Bujumbura. After some fifty persons were slain at Choga, outside Bujumbura, in September, Ambassador Krueger asked that an inquiry be carried out into that incident as well. The first commission submitted its report, but apparently no disciplinary measures were taken in these or other military massacres, with the exception of a change in command in the post of Chief of Staff of the National Police force. The Burundian judicial system has been paralyzed since March 1993, when the terms of the judges of the three criminal courts of appeal expired and were not renewed. In the meantime, some 4,000 persons have been detained on serious charges, virtually all of them Hutu. Given that most judges as well as soldiers and police are Tutsi, this situation suggests grave inequities in the administration of justice.

The Right to Monitor

The Burundi League of Human Rights, Iteka, has been the organization most active in criticizing human rights abuse and calling for moderation and tolerance in political life. Its members and staff have often been threatened over the telephone and by visits of armed men to their homes. At least two have been shot at. The threats led them to limit the frequency and vigor of their criticism. The association SONERA stood closer to the official Tutsi establishment and spoke with an even more muted voice.

The Role of the International Community

The enormity of the failure of the international community in Rwanda the previous year spurred both governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to play a more active role in trying to halt violence in Burundi. Throughout 1995 there was a series of high level missions to Burundi from the U.N., the European Union (E.U.), the OAU, and from a number of individual governments, including the U.S., France, and Germany. The secretary-generals of both the U.N. and the OAU visited, as did members of the Security Council.

The United Nations

From time to time diplomats, including the secretary general of the OAU, suggested that a peacekeeping force of some kind might intervene in Burundi, but most found such an idea unrealistic. Instead, many international actors supported some form of justice to deal with Burundi's immediate past of unpunished killing and to serve as a deterrent against further large-scale slaughter. In 1994, the mainstream political parties recognized that the inadequacies of the Burundian judicial system were permitting a pattern of impunity that encouraged further massacres. They asked the international community to provide an official commission of inquiry to investigate the 1993 assassination of President Ndadaye and the massacres that had followed. An initial mission sent by the Security Council in 1993 had recommended such an international commission, as did a special envoy sent in 1995 to look into its feasibility. The five person commission, finally established by the Security Council on August 28, began its work in October. It will identify those accused of the killings and will recommend ways of bringing them to justice as well as measures to prevent a repetition of similar killings. To stress that massive slaughter would not go unpunished, the Security Council adopted a statement on March 29 condemning the ongoing violence in Burundi, emphasizing the importance of accountability, and warning that the council would consider prosecuting any party who committed acts of genocide, just as it had done in the case of Rwanda. After the assassination of President Ndadaye in 1993, the U.N. secretary-general asked Mauritanian diplomat Ahmedou Ould Abdallah to go to Burundi as his special representative, a post he filled until early October 1995. Although criticized by both sides and often threatened with assassination, Ould Abdallah was able to facilitate contacts among various parties on the complex political scene. The U.N. Human Rights Centre operated a program focused on education and training. Although it intended to begin active monitoring of the human rights situation at several posts throughout the country, the center did not receive the funds needed to implement this plan. In March the U.N. Human Rights Commission named a special rapporteur on human rights despite initial opposition from the Burundi government. The special rapporteur, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, undertook his first mission to Burundi in July. He immediately issued a preliminary report expressing grave concern about the heavy loss of life and other human rights violations. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, in July issued a report on his mission in which he expressed concern about the widespread extrajudicial executions of civilians and the pervasive insecurity.

The European Union

The E.U. stated its objectives in Burundi on March 19 (the Carcassonne statement) and in its common position of March 24. Concerned about the violence, it supported the accords known as the Convention of Government, which had been signed by the main political parties in 1994, and it offered to help in organizing the national debate, called for in the Convention. It promised support in the amount of ECU 3 million for the U.N. human rights center program in Burundi, offered to assist in training magistrates, and called for a round table of donors to facilitate aid to Burundi. In April members of the European Parliament appealed to the E.U. to prepare for military intervention in case the violence in Burundi got worse. At the end of June, the E.U. reaffirmed its commitment to the objectives specified in March. It expressed concern about the growth of extremism and the increase in violence. It also condemned the massacres by the military in Bujumbura and reminded the Burundi government of its responsibility for the proper conduct of military operations. At that time the E.U. was providing funds to the OAU observer mission, had offered support for the sending of human rights experts, had identified needs to be met in the judicial system, and was ready to offer humanitarian aid to refugees and displaced persons. It announced also that a donors round table had been agreed to by the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) and the Burundi government. It declared that member states were applying measures banning travel to their countries by certain identified extremists.

The Organization of African Unity

On April 21, the OAU decided to extend the mandate of its military observer team, which had been operating in Burundi since 1994. It also increased the number of observers from forty-seven to sixty-seven, including soldiers to accompany the Burundi military during operations as well as doctors and engineers. Because the mission was small in size and was limited by regulations which prevented it from traveling without Burundi soldiers, it was sometimes judged ineffective. But its presence appears to have restrained Burundi troops from abuses on at least some occasions.

U.S. Policy

U.S. Ambassador Robert Krueger vigorously and courageously defended human rights in Burundi throughout the year, traveling himself to investigate massacres on the spot, giving press conferences about his findings, and demanding accountability from Burundi authorities. He was supported by the White House, which issued a statement on April 21 commending him for his commitment. Radical Tutsi resented his efforts and did their best to discourage him, even to the point of threatening his life. The U.S. strongly supported the need for accountability for past and current violence in Burundi. To this end, they favored the establishment of the international commission of inquiry, supported the sending of human rights monitors, and co-sponsored the March 29 Security Council resolution warning of prosecutions for any who became guilty of acts of genocide. They sought to support moderates and to ostracize extremists, forty-seven of whom were excluded from receiving U.S. visas. The White House issued three statements during the year calling for calm and toleration and condemning violence. The U.S. dedicated $5 million to a conflict resolution program and gave funds to develop local radio broadcasts promoting peace. The U.S. appointed a special coordinator for Rwanda and Burundi, Ambassador Richard Bogosian, who made several trips to the region. The U.S. also chaired the Rwanda Operational Support Group, a group of eleven donor nations, the U.N., the OAU, and the E.U. which met regularly to coordinate policies and promote reconciliation in Rwanda and Burundi.

The Work of Human Rights Watch/Africa

Human Rights Watch/Africa focused primarily on the importance of justice, both for its own sake and as an effective way of cutting short the cycle of violence. In circles where other actors often sought diplomatic compromise even at the price of ignoring past abuse, we advocated for an immediate establishment of a state of law. We urged donors to concentrate on rebuilding the justice system in Burundi and on facilitating international involvement in establishing responsibilities for past slaughter. Through meetings with officials of the U.S. and other governments and of the U.N. as in contacts with the press, we helped provide factually-based assessments in a situation where deliberate misinformation or easy generalizations often distort the reality.
Comments:
This report covers events of 1995

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.