Associated Press

June 8, 1997

Burundian Regime Guarantees Safety

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- Burundi's deposed Hutu president has left the U.S. Embassy where he was holed up for a year, Burundi radio reported Sunday, and will return to public life under the protection of the Tutsi-led military.

The military regime has agreed to provide Sylvestre Ntibantunganya with an office, transportation and bodyguards, a government official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

It remained unclear what political role, if any, Ntibantunganya would play in this small Central African nation. He could not be reached for comment.

Ntibantunganya fled to the embassy on July 23, fearing for his safety after he was assaulted by a group of Tutsis. He stayed there after the Tutsi-led military seized power July 25 and installed retired army Maj. Pierre Buyoya as president.

Neighboring countries imposed sanctions on Burundi in an attempt to force Buyoua to restore civilian rule and begin negotiations with Hutu rebels.

Buyoya has restored parliament and political parties and opened talks with the armed National Council for the Defense of Democracy. Regional leaders partially lifted the sanctions in April.

Buyoya justified his takeover by saying he was the only one who could restore peace, but fighting continued between the military and the Hutu rebel group.

More than 150,000 people have been killed in a spiral of violence since Tutsi paratroopers killed the country's first democratically elected president, a Hutu, in a 1993 failed military coup.

Hutus make up 84 percent of Burundi's population. Tutsi make up 14 percent but traditionally have controlled the armed forces and the country.