Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will Burundi Sanctions Restore Civilian Rule? Some in Hard-Hit Capital Say They Only Inflame Civil War

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will Burundi Sanctions Restore Civilian Rule? Some in Hard-Hit Capital Say They Only Inflame Civil War

Article excerpt

Taxi drivers, businessmen, and housewives wait impatiently in a gas line some 40 cars long under a stifling midday sun for their monthly five-gallon allotment. Grocery store owners a few blocks away say that prices have risen some 20 percent in the past two weeks.

The people of this capital city sandwiched between Lake Tanganyika and the Mirwa Mountains are feeling the effects of more than a month of sanctions placed on Burundi by neighboring countries. This isolation began with a coup that replaced a democratically elected president with military strongman Maj. Pierre Buyoya.

It was a rare case of African governments coming to agreement when Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire, and Zambia, led by former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, announced an embargo on the tiny central African country July 31 in an effort to force a return to democracy. But many here, and Burundi watchers abroad, argue that continuation of the sanctions may force the ouster of Major Buyoya, a relative moderate, in favor of an extremist who would make an already explosive situation much worse. Like Rwanda, its northern neighbor, Burundi has long suffered from ethnic tensions between Hutus, who make up some 84 percent of the population, and Tutsis, who make up about 15 percent. Fighting between the Tutsi-dominated Army and Hutu rebels has escalated in recent years. Some 150,000 people have died since 1993 when the country's first Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, was assassinated by Tutsi soldiers. In the weeks since the coup, the country has seen the largest rebel offensive in three years as fighting displaced some 30,000 people in the north, according to the United Nations World Food Program. Yesterday, Burundi's Tutsi-dominated Army said 14 people, including six Hutu rebels, had been killed in an attack on a camp for displaced people. The deaths occurred a day after Roman Catholic Archbishop Joachim Ruhana, a moderate Hutu, was killed in an attack on his car Monday. The National Council for the Defense of Democracy, the political wing of the largest Hutu rebel group, denies any role in the killing of the archbishop and claimed the Army was responsible, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, people in Bujumbura, populated almost exclusively by Tutsis, are growing weary of the sanctions. One young Tutsi man, his emotions quickly bubbling to the surface, threw his hands up in frustration in the midst of shouts and honking horns in the gas line. "Buyoya is the only man right now who can bring peace to this country," said the man, who refused to be identified. …

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