UN chief confirms death toll as fears of Burundi genocide grow

The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, urged the Security Council last night to watch closely the situation in Burundi, where violence between Hutus and Tutsis has claimed hundreds of lives in recent days. He said that while there was "no definitive figure on the people killed, the range seems to be from 200 to 500".

Mr Boutros-Ghali was speaking to representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council after Burundi's President, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, described last week's killings as "the beginning of genocide". An estimated 500 people were killed as the army, almost exclusively Tutsi, attacked Hutu areas in the capital, Bujumbura. It is feared Burundi will follow the same path as its neighbour, Rwanda. Thousands have fled the capital. Speaking on Belgian radio yesterday, Mr Ntibantunganya said: "The victims [Hutus] are ethnically targeted and the perpetrators are from another ethnic group [Tutsi] ... Burundi has to be watched very carefully to avoid catastrophe."

It is hard to see what the UN can do in a hurry to support Mr Ntibantunganya's fragile coalition government, which balances unsteadily over a cauldron of volatile ethnic politics. His two predecessors have been murdered in the past two years; many politicians in both ethnic groups have links to the armed extremist groups and know they can provoke an outbreak of killing with a word. Revenge murders have flared in the past two years but circumstances have not led to massacres on the scale of Rwanda - so far.

Burundi was ruled for its first 30 years by a Tutsi lite, although the ethnic group is only 10 to 15 per cent of the population. They maintain almost exclusive control of the army. Extremist Tutsis are trying by force to maintain their position, while some Hutus, seeing how the Tutsi army murdered their president and massacred thousands of Hutus in 1993, feel that only force can secure their political rights. There are signs that the extremist Hutu leaders driven out of Rwanda last year are linking with counterparts in Burundi and of collaboration between Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi.

Meanwhile, Robin Cook, the Labour Party's foreign-affairs spokesman, has described jail conditions in Kigali, Rwanda, where 8,000 are huddled in a prison made for 2,000, as being like the "lower decks of slave ships''. "Conditions in Kigali prison are worse than in the refugee camps in Goma and they get worse daily," Mr Cook said. Each week 1,500 people are arrested in connection with last year's massacres and hundreds are brought to Kigali prison. A week ago 20 prisoners suffocated in an overcrowded cell.

Mr Cook urged European countries to help the new government to provide the means to dispense justice. He said it was a scandal that one year after the Rwanda tragedy not a single ringleader of the genocide had been brought before the international tribunal set up to try them. "The real injustice would be if the peasants who took part in the massacres were tried and punished and the ringleaders got away scot free."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
premier league
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam