Magazine article UN Chronicle

Burundi

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Burundi

Article excerpt

Concerned about the impasse in negotiations on Burundi, the Security Council on 11 December 1997 stressed the importance of the role of the United Nations in promoting peace in the country. Speaking on behalf of the members, Council President Fernando Berrocal Soto of Costa Pica expressed continued concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation within the country and the increasing tensions between Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The continuing spiral of violence in Burundi and Rwanda was affecting humanitarian operations in both countries, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On 20 January, UNHCR stated that in Burundi thousands of people had been forced to move temporarily into safer areas in the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura. An intense exchange of fire between government and rebel forces in the north of the capital caused panic among the local population and compelled UNHCR and other aid agencies to cancel planned field missions.

On 7 January, High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata condemned the escalating cycle of violence in Burundi. In her statement, she noted that the attack on 6 January in Maramvya village in Bujumbura province had major implications for hundreds of thousands of returnees and refugees. The attacks were aimed at destabilizing areas where thousands of people had returned to restart their lives. The United Nations refugee agency was deeply concerned about the implications of these attacks for some 170,000 returnees it assisted in Burundi and the 200,000 Burundi refugees it cared for abroad. Approximately 8,000 civilians had fled the area as a result of the attack, which included about 3,000 survivors of the 1 January massacre at the nearby village of Rukaramu that left more than 150 people dead. UNHCR provided aid for the survivors. The Rukaramu massacre caused some 2,000 returnees to flee from UNHCR's Gatumba transit centre a few kilometres away; they had since returned to the site. Expressing sympathy to the families of the victims, Mrs. Ogata said: "Innocent civilians are clearly the targets. As in the attacks on Congolese refugees in Rwanda, most of the victims are women and children who are being chased further and further from their homes. …

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