From the archives of the US State Department Department of State
Memorandum for the President
May 3, 1972
Burundi Political Crisis - The Burundi Government has been under attack from insurgents supported by outside forces who may have entered the country from Tanzania
and joined with local tribesmen.
remains in command of the Government and the army, but his forces have not been able to regain complete control of parts of the Bururi Province in southern Burundi where some fighting continues, hundreds of people reportedly have been killed and large areas devastated.
There are no reports of Americans or Europeans having been harmed in any of the violence. Our Embassy has advised the 125 Americans, mainly missionaries, residing in Burundi to exercise extreme prudence and remain close to their missions since there were rumors of American involvement stemming from missionary contacts with tribesmen.
In response to Micombero's request for international assistance for the refugees, Ambassador Melady
has offered foodstuffs from Catholic Relief Service supplies stored in Bujumbura and plans to make additional purchases utilizing disaster relief funds.
Except for the potential danger to American citizens residing in Burundi, no American interests are threatened.
John N. Irwin II
From: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e5/54737.htmJune 26, 1972
MEMORANDUM FOR: HENRY A. KISSINGER
FROM: MELVIN H. LEVINE
SUBJECT: Burundi: Kennedy Criticizes Administration
...We have been in something of a dilemma over what to do about Burundi. On the one hand, the slaughter is systematic and extensive, probably involving upwards of 100,000 victims. There are strong humanitarian reasons for trying to halt it, as well as the prospect of increasing political criticism -- like Kennedy's -- if we don't act. On the other hand, there's not much we can do realistically. Our leverage in the country is miniscule. We could contemplate a public statement denouncing events, but this would have little or no positive effect in Burundi, except to subject our Embassy to official wrath -- perhaps including closure of the Mission -- and would result in African accusations that we are meddling in their affairs. For these reasons, a public statement would be contrary to our policy of avoiding quixotic moral posturing.
From http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e5/54738.htmAUGUST 18, 1972
MEMORANDUM FOR DR. KISSINGER
FROM: SITUATION ROOM
SUBJECT: ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ITEMS
...BURUNDI TRIBAL SLAUGHTER GOES ON: THE EXTERMINATION OF HUTU MALES WITH ANY SEMBLANCE OF AN EDUCATION SEEMS TO BE CONTINUING IN BURUNDI. HOPES THAT UN EFFORTS TO ESTABLISH A HUMANITARIAN PRESENCE IN BURUNDI WOULD INFLUENCE THE TUTSI GOVERNMENT TO STOP. THE REPRESSION HAVE NOT YET MATERIALIZED. AMONG THE AFRICANS, ONLY PRESIDENT MOBUTU
HAS SHOWN ANY SORT OF READINESS TO INVOLVE THE ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY IN BURUNDI. NOT EVEN NEIGHBORING RWANDA
, WHICH HAS A HUTU GOVERNMENT, HAS SOUGHT OAU ACTION TO SAVE BURUNDI'S HUTUS. AS FOR OURSELVES, WE ARE ASSISTING REFUGEE EFFORTS IN ZAIRE, RWANDA AND TANZANIA AS WELL AS CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES IN BURUNDI, WHICH REPORTEDLY HAS ACCESS TO ALL THE POPULATION.
From http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e5/54739.htmSeptember 20, 1972
MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT
FROM: HENRY A. KISSINGER
SUBJECT: Burundi - population 3.5 million
As had happened often in the past, on April 29 a group of Hutus tried to precipitate a revolt against the ruling Tutsi tribe. The revolt failed but touched off a bloody reprisal that led to possibly over 100,000 Hutu deaths, and to nearly a half-million Hutu widows and orphans.
Tribalism was at the root of the Burundi warfare. The Hutus, who rep-resent 85% of the population, wanted to overthrow the tall Tutsi (Watusis) who make up 15% of the people. The Hutu rebels killed every Tutsi that they ran across during their initial rampage which triggered the Tutsi decision to exterminate all Hutus with any semblance of leadership, i. e., those who could read or write, or those who wore shoes. Sixty thousand Hutus fled the country.
The Burundi tragedy appears to have been a strictly internal, tribal matter. Except for Zaire, which at first assisted the Burundi Government because it believed the invading rebels were connected with former Congolese dissidents, there was no African intervention. In fact, no African leader spoke out publicly against the massacres nor sought to involve the UN or the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
The United States, for humanitarian reasons and due to some Congressional concern (Senators Kennedy
), tried to interest the Africans in taking the matter to the OAU. Only Mobutu contemplated such action. Leaders such as Selassie
did not want to intervene in Burundi's internal affairs. We also urged the UN to establish a humanitarian presence hoping that this would lead to an end to the repression. Such a presence came too late.Burundi's former colonial master, Belgium
, publicly denounced the Burundi genocide, stopped military aid and slowed down their economic assistance. This had little effect on the Tutsi Government. Other Europeans, particularly the French, maintained a hands-off posture.
There is no evidence that the PRC
[People's Republic of China] or USSR
have played any role in Burundi, or that they seek to profit from the situation.
The outlook for the future seems bleak. Reconciliation between the Hutus and Tutsis seems impossible, and it is hard to imagine a stable situation before the majority Hutus prevail, as they have in neighboring Rwanda.
Our own interests in Burundi are microscopic (we buy some coffee). We have 150 citizens there, mostly missionaries. There has never been any threat to the safety of Europeans, whose protection the Burundi Government assured to avoid outside intervention...
From http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e5/54740.htmDate: September 23, 1972
Time: 4:50 pm – 5:10 pm
Location: Camp David Telephone
Participants: Richard Nixon
, Henry Kissinger
Nixon: Incidentally, your--I want you to follow through and get that ambassador from Burundi the hell--get his ass back here.
Kissinger: I tried to be--I--Rogers doesn’t want to do it because he says the killing there has potentially stopped now.
Nixon: I want to get him back and get a report on what happened.
Nixon: I want to know what the hell happened.
Nixon: I mean, what, what is the matter--what is the matter with the State Department, Henry? They’ve killed one hundred thousand people. Is--are, are we callous about it? Don’t we care?
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Washington, D.C. 20520
September 24, 1972
MEMORANDUM FOR MR. HENRY A. KISSINGER
THE WHITE HOUSE
Subject: The U.S. Response to the Burundi Tragedy
Between April 29 and the end of July, serious ethnic violence flared in Burundi. The United States during this period, both in Burundi and outside, made strong efforts to awaken African and international concern and to encourage relief to those affected.
What Actually Happened
Elements of the majority Hutu ethnic group plotted to overthrow the minority Tutsi regime. The Hutus struck in various localities on April 29, killing several thousand Tutsis. The Tutsi army with superior firepower quickly mastered the Hutu dissidents. A wave of reprisals followed, resulting in the deaths of more than 100,000 Hutus, and approximately 60,000 Hutu refugees in neighboring Rwanda, Zaire and Tanzania. (Burundi has a population of 3.6 million.)
Some of the killing was spontaneous with Tutsis attacking their Hutu neighbors. A great deal of the killing, however, was done by the government in a calculated manner designed to eliminate present and future Hutu leadership. The Tutsis clearly gave vent to their deepest fears of being eliminated as an ethnic group. Tutsis in Burundi have long been afraid of the kind of Hutu revolt which destroyed the Tutsis of Rwanda in 1959
One of our major concerns was the safety of 150 U.S. missionaries who chose to stay with their parishoners, most of whom were Hutus. Despite the panic and the frenzy, the Tutsis were able to assure the safety of foreigners so as to minimize any basis for external involvement. In our approach to the crisis we were conscious of past Burundi suspicions against Americans. Two American Ambassadors have been asked to leave the country since independence. We were also conscious of Burundi's closeness to Zaire where we have major interests...
From: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/nixon/e5/54745.htmOctober 10,1972
MEMORANDUM FOR HENRY KISSINGER
FROM: Fernando E. Rondon
SUBJECT: Burundi Policy
As you recommended in your memorandum at Tab 2, the President agreed that relations with Burundi should be minimal but he added: "K - also see the Burundi Ambassador." The purpose of this memorandum is to get those instructions conveyed to State either orally, as we would suggest, or in written form as provided for in Tab 1.
In addition to informing State about our minimal relationship, the Department would be asked to call in the Burundi Ambassador and tell him that as a result of the systematic killings which took place in his country we cannot consider our relations to be normal. This line would anger the Burundi Government but probably not lead to a break in relations or to an ouster of our mission there. Such an ouster would not be in our interest because of our desire (State and CIA feel strongly about this) to monitor potential anti-Zairian activity in Burundi. (As African maps indicate, Burundi
is the back door to the traditionally most restive part of Zaire (Congo). If the PRC or USSR wanted to stir up trouble in Eastern Zaire, Burundi would be the ideal basing point for rebels.) Otherwise, our interests in Burundi are minimal...October 6, 1972
TO: AF - Mr. David D. Newsom
FROM: AF/C - Ambassador Yost
SUBJECT: Developments Affecting US Policy on Burundi
In view of the considerable current interest in the U.S. relationship with Burundi, I would like to make one or two comments for the record. They are made in the light of events since submission of Mr. Eliot's memorandum to Mr. Kissinger, dated September 24, 1972, and are of course purely personal.
1. Recent political developments in Burundi indicate a growth in the strength of the more moderate of the Tutsi factions comprising the cabinet. The Prime Minister can be said to head this faction, although it appears to have the general support if not guidance, of President Micombero
. Such national reconciliation as may be possible in the coming months will, I believe, take place more easily under this group than under the leadership of the Simbananiye-Shibura-Rwuri faction. The latter is more radical both on foreign policy matters and on the question of how to deal with the Hutu majority.
2. We have indications that the Belgians are seriously considering terminating their military assistance to Burundi over the next year or two. While multilateral and bilateral economic assistance to Burundi may remain at roughly recent levels, the prospect of losing Belgian military support is likely to have a disproportionate effect on the insecure Tutsi regime. In this atmosphere, any U.S. move vis.a.vis Burundi would be examined closely for its implications for total Western intentions toward that country. The GRB is lonely and will certainly seek alternatives if it thinks the West is pulling out.
3. Chinese interest in economic [text illegible] in Burundi continues. PRC willingness to help fill the potential military gap cannot be ruled out, though a minority elitist government is not the most comfortable bedfellow for the PRC or perhaps -- in the longer term -- the most useful one. In any event, both the PRC and President Mobutu continue today to consider Burundi an important piece of real estate at the vulnerable eastern door to Zaire. If the Zaire rebels were given active support by a Burundi government, including the use of sanctuary and supply lines, the Zaire government would be faced with a substantially more serious dissident problem in the East. [text not declassified]
I therefore believe that it is in the interest of the U.S. to retain the greatest possible flexibility in Burundi, continuing our minimum presence during the current difficult period but leaving us free to make selected gestures toward the GRB if political and intertribal developments within Burundi make this useful and feasible.Burundi
, human rights
, Current Affairs