- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

Country out of chaos

The ambassador from Burundi is trying to convince Washington that the leader of his country saved the Central African nation from total collapse and is not the authoritarian ruler the State Department claims he is.

Ambassador Thomas Ndikumana, in an Embassy Row interview, said Burundi was in chaos when Pierre Buyoya reclaimed the presidency in a bloodless coup in 1996.

Mr. Buyoya came to power in 1987 by overthrowing a president who had staged a coup in 1976. Mr. Buyoya tried to heal the tribal conflict between Tutsis and Hutus and handed over power in 1993 to an elected government headed by a Hutu president, who was assassinated within a few months. The tribal civil war erupted again.

No one confuses Burundi with a democracy, but the ambassador insists it is now on the right road.

In a country where the minority Tutsi have long ruled the majority Hutu, the ambassador said Mr. Buyoya, a Tutsi, is trying to promote reconciliation. Twelve Hutus hold positions in a Cabinet of 22 ministers. There are 14 political parties, and "80 percent of the parliament are Hutus," the ambassador said.

"Power sharing is not a possibility. It is a reality," he said.

"The State Department, however, says those developments are nothing but fig leaves attempting to cover "an authoritarian military regime." The department's latest human rights report faults Mr. Buyoya on every major area. The report accuses him of restricting political rights and civil rights. It cites abuses by the Tutsi-controlled military, especially in fighting a rebel insurgency.

"The armed forces killed armed rebels and unarmed civilians, including women, children and the elderly," the State Department said.

Mr. Ndikumana said all of the criticism must be placed in the context of the chaos that gripped Burundi when Mr. Buyoya regained power.

"You cannot make a coup against an empty state," Mr. Ndikumana said. "People were killing each other in the streets, in the villages. There were political assassinations. There was total disorder."

"People asked Buyoya to come back. They knew he was the only one to bring back order," the ambassador said.

Mr. Buyoya "came back not for his own power but to save the country," Mr. Ndikumana said.

On other issues, the ambassador insisted his country is not involved in the civil war in Congo.

He also said he is "very frustrated" by the Clinton administration's failure to establish a comprehensive approach to problems in Africa.

He called it Washington's "a la carte foreign policy in Africa."

Russian policy review

House Republicans yesterday opened a "wide-ranging inquiry" into the Clinton administration's policy toward Russia, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert announced.

"Despite the continuing importance of Russia and U.S.-Russian relations, the situation in Russia continues to deteriorate, even as Russia's proliferation efforts increase, particularly to Iran, and its bloody war in Chechnya continues," Mr. Hastert said.

He appointed Rep. Christopher Cox of California, chairman of the House Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/ Commercial Concerns With the People's Republic of China, to head the panel.

"Our goal in this task force is to set the stage for a new, positive U.S.-Russian relationship based on strong ties not just between a small clique of wealthy ex-communists and our government, but between the Russian and American people," Mr. Cox said.

In addition to Mr. Cox, the committee includes; House International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman of New York; Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Porter J. Goss of Florida; Banking and Financial Services Committee Chairman Jim Leach of Iowa; Armed Services Committee Chairman Floyd D. Spence of South Carolina; and Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young of Florida.

The panel also includes: Tillie Fowler of Florida, vice chairman of the House Conference; James H. Saxton of New Jersey, vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee; Spencer Bachus of Alabama, chairman of the Banking subcommittee on domestic and international monetary policy; Sonny Callahan of Alabama, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations; and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on military research and development.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide