Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 10:44:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Donald Zhang Osborn" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Burundi: NGO Letter to Clinton (fwd)
Burundi: NGO Letter to Clinton
U.S. relief agencies urge Clinton to take additional action to prevent further loss of life in Burundi
NGO Letter to Clinton, 7 September 1996
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fourteen U.S. relief and refugee-assistance agencies have urged President Clinton to take additional steps to avoid repetition in Burundi of the mass violence which took 500,000 to 1,000,000 lives in neighboring Rwanda two years ago.
In an August 21 letter to the White House, the agencies asked the President to press U.S. allies to work more closely with African governments to cut off the flow of arms to the region and to stem cross border violence. The agencies also called for contingency plans to protect potential victims should diplomacy fail and more widespread violence erupt.
Specific measures recommended included consultations between the U.S. military and international organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating in neighboring states to identify ways the U.S. military could help the humanitarian community meet critical refugees needs.
The agencies also called on the President to press U.S. allies to be prepared to provide ground troops for an intervention force should one have to be mobilized. In addition, the President was asked to go beyond the outstanding U.S. offer of logistic support for such a force and also to furnish modern equipment, training, and financial backing. The letter cites a recent University of Maryland poll indicating that two-thirds of the American public would favor even stronger U.S. action.
For more information contact:
Mike Kiernan at InterAction,
Text of letter:
August 21, 1996
President William J. Clinton
Dear Mr. President:
The ongoing genocidal violence in Burundi, already responsible for an estimated 150,000 deaths, could accelerate to catastrophic levels without any further advance warning. We call on you, as President of the world's most powerful and influential nation, to take the steps necessary to forestall repetition of the tragedy which shamed the international community two years ago in Rwanda.
We appreciate the attention which senior members of your administration have been giving to the continuing crisis in Burundi, in particular the visits of Ambassador Albright and National Security Advisor Lake, as well as the recent personal involvement of Secretary Christopher. We also laud the generous assistance provided by the U.S. government to refugees in and from Burundi.
However, it is apparent that the earnest preventive diplomatic efforts undertaken by the U.S. and key African leaders have not defused the situation. The recent coup and subsequent embargo add to internal pressures which could tear the country apart. Both more vigorous American diplomacy to prevent such a blowup and realistic contingency planning for limiting the loss of human life if diplomacy fails will be welcomed by the millions of Americans who support our agencies' goals and operations.
Several of Burundi's African neighbors have sought to facilitate an end to the violence with the backing of the Organization for African Unity. However, it has been difficult for them to deal with some of the key issues, including cross border violence and the continuing flow of arms to the area. The United States and allied governments with long-standing influence in the region have resources and leverage which should be committed to resolution of these problems. It is particularly important that the administration communicate to the leadership of the French government the great importance it attaches to collaborative action.
If widespread violence erupts in Burundi substantial population movements will occur. Neighboring states will be more willing to allow Burundians fleeing violence to find refuge on their territory if more affluent members of the international community have pledged financial and logistic support. To prepare for such a contingency, we ask that in addition to conveying the appropriate assurances to the neighboring governments, you authorize the appropriate U.S. military commands to engage in consultations with the international organizations and NGOs operating in Tanzania and Zaire. The objective of these consultations would be to identify ways in which the U.S. military could help meet critical refugee needs exceeding the response capabilities of the humanitarian community.
We are aware that the United Nations has tried to make contingency plans for intervention in the event that a collapse of governmental authority leads to even more widespread killing in Burundi. The need for such intervention will be essential if Burundi's neighbors do not permit refugee outflows. However, it has become clear that no such intervention will occur unless the United States is prepared to play a role consistent with its power and influence. This role should go beyond that currently contemplated. The U.S. should be encouraging commitments by U.S. allies of the ground forces needed to lead such an intervention. It also should indicate to African governments willing to contribute their troops to such a force that the U.S. will provide not only logistic support but modern equipment, training and financial backing.
Humanitarian assistance and respect for human rights have long enjoyed strong bipartisan support among the American people and their political leaders. A survey published in July by the University of Maryland indicated that 66% of the American people would even favor contributing U.S. troops to a UN peacekeeping operation in Burundi should forces there engage in genocide. The more modest effort we recommend would undoubtedly be well-received by the vast majority of our fellow Americans.
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