New president in Burundi calls for halt to ethnic war Coup leader delivers plea for reconciliation between Hutus, Tutsis


BUJUMBURA, Burundi -- The new president of Burundi took his message of reconciliation to the people yesterday, explaining his reasons for the coup he led last week and asking them to "calm all the ethnicities, to let everyone know that there is no Hutu, no Tutsi, but only one Burundian people."

Burundi, like neighboring Rwanda, has been torn by fighting between the majority Hutu and the Tutsi ethnic groups that has claimed 150,000 lives in the last three years.

The coup, led by the Tutsi-dominated army, overthrew the Hutu president.

The new president, Maj. Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, delivered his message yesterday afternoon to a gathering of former government ministers, ambassadors and politicians.

In the morning, it was delivered for him to a crowd of about 3,000 people by the mayor of Bujumbura. They were gathered for a government-sponsored celebration of the coup.

"The demonstration was to let us tell the people how to behave," Mayor Pie Ntiynkundiye said afterward in English that was somewhat inexact, but still got his point across.

"We told them to be in equation with each other, Hutu and Tutsi. And to assist each other. If a Hutu has a problem, he must seek Tutsi assistance, and vice versa. And to turn back to work, because work is the cement for good cohabitation," the mayor said.

In his speech, Buyoya said he had not sought to be the president. He previously held the post from 1987 to 1993.

"It's hard, it's a sacrifice," he said. "We have to change the mentality that everyone only wants to be a leader, and does not care about making peace.

"My actions will not be against anyone," he promised.

"I want you to know that I'll do my best to protect Hutu," he told his largely Tutsi audience. "And to protect Tutsi."

He also said he wanted to reimpose discipline, especially among young people. He said he knew that many young men wanted to enlist in the army to protect the state against Hutu guerrillas. "But that must be done with order, discipline and respect for authority," he said.

This may have been directed at Jean Baptiste Bugaza, another former president who is considered his chief rival in the Tutsi leadership.

Bugaza is believed to be behind youth militias that were conducting threatening marches in the capital before the coup.

Earlier yesterday, Bugaza held a news conference criticizing the new government and calling for "peaceful resistance."

Buyoya promised to form a government, saying he would "choose honest people from here and there, not just politicians who want to be ministers." He was applauded.

The streets were calm here yesterday. There was hardly a guard at the airport, and the few soldiers on the road to town were standing around casually, not crouched behind sandbags.

Concerned diplomats and foreign governments are waiting to see whether violence will erupt again, but an army spokesman said there was no fighting anywhere in the country yesterday.

The airport, which was closed for two days, reopened yesterday.

A few aid officials were waiting to leave -- not because they were nervous, they said, but because they had meetings or vacation plans that had been postponed.

"Oh, we're in phase three, which means evacuation of staff's family members," said Leslie Elliott, an official with the World Food Program who was waiting for a plane. "But we've been at phase three for the last year. We're certainly not going to phase four, which is evacuation of nonessential staff.

"And I certainly hope everything stays OK," he added, "because I'm going for a week, and I'm leaving my cat."

The city is still under a 7 p.m. curfew. "And now the police are not kidding," said Jean Claude Nshimirimana, who was at the news conference finding work as a translator. "Before curfew, it's safe to walk the streets now, because the army is very serious."

Two hours later he was proved right. Cars virtually vanished from Bujumbura's drab boulevards within 10 minutes after 7 p.m.

The presidents of Uganda and Tanzania met with former Tanzanian President Julius K. Nyerere in Kampala, Uganda, yesterday to discuss the situation here.

Nyerere's brokering of a deal to introduce troops from other African countries into Burundi led to the downfall of the government last week: Hutus wanted the outsiders to rein in the largely Tutsi army, which it blames for massacres.

Prominent Tutsis were afraid the foreign troops would do just that, allowing Hutu militants to stage genocidal attacks.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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