Concern: the recent massacre of Two hundred Tutsi in Burundi
Following the massacre of more than two hundred Tutsi at Gatumba in Burundi
by the extremist Burundi rebel group- the Hutu FNL on the night of Saturday
14th August 2004, we are writing this open letter to express our deep concern
and outraged feeling over the horrible killing of innocent women and children
who had fled their own country to find themselves victims of the coalition
of Hutu extremists at a particular time when the United Nations has two
peacekeeping missions based in Burundi and in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Once again, the Palipehutu –FLN which has claimed the massacres with
the support of the ‘genocidaires’ like the so-called INTERAHAMWE
and EX-FAR have stricken again in the presence of the UN peacekeeping missions
not only in Burundi but also in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Therefore,
nothing should deter the Tutsi population to strike a parallel between the
genocide in Rwanda and that in Burundi. They believe that the International
Community embodied in the Organisation you chaired has done little to stop
the genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 and worst has failed to learn from
what happened there to solve the issue of the Tutsi genocide in Burundi which
started in October 1993 and is still being committed on a rather different
The current ‘creeping genocide’ or the ‘genocide by stealth’ is
being pursued as part of a deliberate strategy. Having attracted the attention
of the international community in Rwanda, the ‘armed political groups’ together
with the ‘genocidaires’ decided to pursue their goal in Burundi
at a slower rate. But their goal remained the same: the extermination of
the Tutsi people in Burundi, in Congo and ultimately in Rwanda !!!
Reports from the major human rights organisations all acknowledge that armed
political groups continue to carry out serious human rights abuses in Burundi,
including the unlawful killing of civilians, torture and rape. The current
death toll stands at more than 300,000 people.
The Tutsi population in the Great Lake Region is at risk of being wiped
out of the entire world population and each individual death should be deeply
resented as a deep failure to address the real issue in order to stop the
genocide to be pursued in the Great Lake Region.
- The UN has learned nothing from its previous mistake.
We can not review in detail what went wrong in the manner in which the United
Nations handle the situation in Rwanda prior to the Genocide between 1992
and 1994 and in Sierra Leone between 1997 and 1999 two African countries
where extreme atrocities in violation of basics human rights have taken place.
In Rwanda, your Organisation, which was present at the time of the genocide
and had gathered enough intelligence to know the scale of what was being
prepared, did nothing to prevent the inevitable.
Instead of protecting the population the UN peacekeeping mission facilitated
the evacuation of foreign officials and diplomats and left the entire Tutsi
Community behind at the mercy of the ‘genocidaires’.
In the case of Sierra Leone, at the Lome Agreement, which was signed in
July 1999 under intense pressure, you instructed your representative to make
one reservation, as you were feeling queasy about the amnesty, to the effect
that it would not cover ‘grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions.
Indeed in Burundi, your Organisation, which has been present since 1994
through your Special Representative, has now since the hand over of the OAU
Military Mission to your Organisation a peacekeeping mission of more than
In Burundi, as in Rwanda in 1994, your Organisation can only afford protection
to Political personalities who should be accountable for the crimes against
humanity they have instigated and are for the current time enjoying protection
from prosecution, taking advantage of a legislation on provisional immunity
they have passed when it should be the utmost duty of your Organisation to
investigate those grave allegations and prosecute anyone suspected of having
committed any of the crimes that amounts to crime against humanity.
By the same token, your Organisation is denying protection to vulnerable
people who have fled their country as a result of the war and has done nothing
to protect the population who are more in need of protection as a result
of their status (being a minority victim of genocide in the region and refugees)
and ignoring international obligations for which your Organisation has to
Geoffrey Robertson, Q.C., currently President of the UN Special Court for
Sierra Leone, in his book, ‘Crimes against Humanity: The struggle for
global justice’ states: “Sierra Leone provides an awkward postscript
to the human rights advances at the end of the twentieth century: a warning
of how easily retribution for crimes against humanity can be overlooked by
diplomats and UN careerists who want ‘a deal at any cost’.
Contrary to Sierra Leone where you instructed your representative to make
one reservation to the effect that it would not cover ‘grave breaches’ of
Geneva Convention, you refused in the case of Burundi to take any positive
step in instructing your representative to make any reservation in connection
with alleged grave breaches of Geneva Convention which amount to crime against
humanity and which had been already recognised by an International Commission
sent by your Organisation in their report N. S/1996/682.
Indeed in Burundi, your Organisation through your Special Representative
has overlooked the issue of genocide and impunity by attempting by any means
to reach a peace agreement, which was obtained under too much international
pressure at Arusha in 2001, as it was the case for Sierra Leone in Lome.
Far more, you have done little to acknowledge the reservations expressed
in the Arusha Peace Agreement by the Political Parties from the Tutsi minorities.
May we refer you to the report produced, within the department called ‘Lessons
Learned Unit’ in your Organisation, for the millennium summit by a
panel of experts chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi: It concluded that the UN’s
fundamental peacekeeping failure had been its ‘reluctance to distinguish
victim from aggressor’: adherence to the traditional principles of
impartiality and use of force only in self-defence had resulted in the UN’s ‘complicity
This, Dear Mr Annan, referred to the Lome Agreement, which set free the RUF
leader and gave him a half share in the nation political power and resource
wealth. Henceforth, said Brahimi, Security Council mandates must permit military
action by bigger and better forces, directed against ‘spoilers’-
parties like the RUF which break peace agreements- and include as targets
their accomplice arms suppliers, drug and gem traders and parasitic crime
We feel the duty to take this opportunity to address the real issue faced
by the International Community in relation to the return of the peace in
Burundi as we said and continue to proclaim that these killings are the
result of the failure of your Organisation to ascertain the real issues
and assess the real problem and to provide the real response in order to
find the appropriate solution in accordance with international law.
To our consternation, unfortunately, we are concerned that the lessons of
what happened in Rwanda in 1994 and in Sierra Leone from 1997 to 1999 have
not yet been learned.
1. The issue of Justice and punishment: Facing UN international obligations.
To many on the ground when the genocide erupted in Burundi in 1993, there
was little doubt about what was occurring. Yet, the situation in Burundi
has largely been described by your Organisation as constituting civil war
or tribal violence. The ‘armed political groups’ and Rwanda militia
who systematically slaughtered Tutsi men, women and children are described
as fighting for democracy against the ‘Tutsi dominated army.’ Were
the civilian women, men or children Tutsi killed since October 1993 and those
Tutsi Congolese recently massacred members of any military groups or members
of the Burundian Army?
In 1996, the United Nations International Commission of Enquiry made a Report
to the UN General Secretary [N. S/1996/682]. The Report recommended that
international jurisdiction be asserted with respect to the genocide. Unfortunately,
no action has been taken so far. What are you waiting for to take any action?
In December 2003, the Human Right Watch Report of which undoubtedly your
Special Representative in Burundi received a copy, states at page 55 as follow “Responsible
leaders inside and outside Burundi must seek to narrow as far as possible
the effective immunity from prosecution granted by the protocol, both by
restricting its duration and by insisting that it must not apply to serious
violation of international humanitarian and human right. Should there be
no effective action to limit this grant of immunity, combatants engaged in
the ongoing war, whether government soldiers or rebels, will be encouraged
to disregard international law whenever they find it useful to do so. Not
only will the crimes detailed in this report go unpunished, but more such
crimes will be committed.”
We call upon you personally as a genuine and true son of the African Continent
in order to avoid the issue of genocide of the Tutsi in the African Great
Lake Region being a scar on your conscience to take a positive step in the
right direction and acknowledge the Tutsi genocide in Burundi.
2. Individual Accountability
As Gregory Stanton said “ the beast of genocide lurks in the dark.
While this includes darkness of murderous ignorance, lethal discrimination
and bloodthirsty arrogance, genocide largely lurks in the darkness of irresponsibility
As in international law, individual responsibility is intrinsic to the crime
of genocide. Such an emphasis is especially important for Burundi, as it
undermines the belief that all Tutsi act in the same way and can be held
responsible for each other’s actions, a belief central to the ideology
of genocide. Equally, an emphasis on individual responsibility will prevent
any suggestion that each and every Hutu is responsible for the genocide.
Geoffrey Robertson, said: “ Kossovo and East Timor were both depicted
in the media as ‘ethnic conflicts’ underlain by blood hatreds
between races and religions: the Catholic Serbs against the Muslim Albanians,
the Catholic East Timorese against the Muslim Indonesians. This analysis
is simplistic, and essentially false. As historian Noel Malcolm
points out in respect to Kosovo, ‘it ignored the primary role of politicians
in creating conflict at a political level…between low-level prejudices
on the one hand and a military conflict, concentration camps, and mass murder
on the other, there lies a very long road: it was the political leaders who
propelled the people down that road, and not vice-versa’…. What
emerges starkly from both situations is the criminal responsibility of political
and military leaders for perpetrating and permitting crimes against humanity.
The actual killers were soldiers and mad-dog militias, but criminal responsibility
lay indelibly with commanders who had long before built their power upon
racism and nationalism, in the course of which they offered impunity to the
killers they inspired.”
In that respect, Agathon Rwasa and his commanders, the leader of the extremist
Hutu rebel group FNL who claimed the recent massacre should bear criminal
responsibility for all the crimes his movement has committed since 1993 and
deserve to be captured and put on trial !! No negotiation whatsoever should
be envisaged with his movement if you want to restore the credibility of
the UN in the region and in Africa, your own continent, as a whole.
And indeed, Geoffrey Robertson states: “So much for hindsight: a warring
faction guilty of atrocities on a scale that amounts to crime against humanity
must never again be forgiven sufficiently to be accorded a slice of power:
on the contrary, its leaders deserve to be captured and put on trial. Foday
Sankoh embodies that proposition”
We call upon you personally to exercise your influence to either extend
the International Criminal Tribunal’s jurisdiction in Rwanda to Burundi
or to create a similar Tribunal for Burundi as the one created for Sierra
Unless individual responsibility displaces the idea of collective responsibility
once and for all, we risk granting the perpetrators of the genocide a final,
To: United Nations
H.E. Mr. Koffi Annan
Secretary general of the United Nations
1, United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y.10017
Cc: - Chairman of the Security Council,
- President of the General Assembly,
- International Criminal Court,
- Special Representative of the Secretary General &
Head of Mission in Burundi
Action against Genocide in Burundi
28, Corbett House, Beam Street,
Bristol, BS5 9QT