Letter to the Federal Government Regarding the Situation in Burundi

Wednesday, September 18 1996

Government of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa (Ontario)
K1A 0A6

Dear Sirs:

We are extremely concerned about the situation in Burundi, a country adrift in a sea of ethnic violence. Fanatics on both sides apparently consider anyone appealing for peace to be a traitor, making it virtually impossible for the voice of moderates to be heard.

Last week’s assassination of Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna of Gitega, a man known for condemning all violence, irrespective of its source, is yet another example of this brutal silencing of all moderate opinion in the country.

Life in Burundi is grinding to a halt; unless external pressure is applied, we fear there will be even further slaughter. We must support the efforts of those people working to bring about negotiations and isolate the extremists. For that reason we invite the Canadian government to consider the following recommendations:

  1. to continue to support any initiative designed to ensure respect for the rule of law in Burundi, including the economic embargo initiated by the countries of the Great Lakes region to bring all parties involved in the present conflict to the negotiating table. Humanitarian aid, obviously, should be excluded from the embargo;
  2. to ask the United Nations Security Council to impose an embargo on all arms being supplied to the belligerents;
  3. to provide financial and logistical support to countries in the Great Lakes region to help implement a resolution adopted June 25, 1996 at the Arusha Summit concerning foreign assistance to end the killing in Burundi and make life safe once again for its people, and;
  4. in an effort to end the rampant lawlessness and disorder plaguing Burundi, immediately urge the United Nations to begin judicial proceedings to try those individuals named in the report of the international commission of inquiry into the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye and the massacres that followed that event.

We are well aware of the Canadian government’s efforts to date to find fair and lasting solutions to the conflict in Burundi. Each of us, in our own way, also wants to contribute towards establishing a lasting peace.

+ Most Reverend Francis J. Spence
Archbishop of Kingston
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Fabien Leboeuf
Executive Director
Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

Suzanne Loiselle
Executive Director
Entraide missionnaire