62. Telegram 126711 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Burundi1 2


  • Asst. Sec. Newsom-Burundi Ambassador Ndabaniwe Meeting June 27


  • 122179
Amb. Ndabaniwe stated following his conversation with Mr. Newsom Thursday June 21 (reftel) he had immediatly contacted MOFA, Bujumbura to transmit Newsom comments. He found out MOFA was aware of US activities and was attempting to contact him. The Amb. was instructed to seek further clarification of certain points and then return for consultations. He departs Washington afternoon Wed. June 28.
First point Amb. Ndabaniwe wished clairified was in view of USG position that Burundi problem required international discussion and activity. Did we plan to bring it before international forum? If so, how and where?
Mr. Newsom replied that during events in Burundi last year, we had consulted with African leaders. When it appeared that there was to be a recurrence of last years events, it was natural that we should again seek their ideas as to whether or not they considered situation serious enough to take some action. We felt this was necessary the actions in Burundi and the inaction elsewhere in Africa had adverse effects on our capability to work with problems elsewhere in Africa. Outside of [Page 2] these consultations, the USG did not repeat not plan to raise matter in international forum at this time.
The Ambassador said he was quite satisfied with that answer and posed his second question. In view of our suggestion for an OAU Mission to Burundi, the GRB would like to know the nature of the mission we proposed i.e. military, political, civilian? What would be its role and who would be in charge? How long would it last?
Mr. Newsom said in analyzing the latest disturbances in Burundi, it appeared they resulted from the refugee attacks on Burundi which in turn led to reprisals and a heightened level of fear on both sides. If OAU holds problem is strictly internal, it would be difficult for them to intervene in any way. However we considered the presence of refugee camps along border and rebel attacks from these camps as providing basis for OAU activity. We hoped an OAU Mission would serve to curtail activities by rebels from these camps and prevent further disturbances. The nature of the mission, length, role, etc. would be decided by the OAU if they deemed such a mission appropriate.
Amb. Ndabaniwe expressed satisfaction with answer but pointed out that Burundi’s problems had other international causes. He then cited activities by Christian Trade Union in Belgium during past and recently aimed at overthrow of government in Burundi. Most of this discussion referred to Pierre Jacques’ letter. He also cited Rwandan radio broadcast inciting Hutu to commit genocide against Tutsi. He said if the USG wanted to take active role in helping Burundi, we should present demarches to Belgian and Rwandan Governments to stop these activities against GRB.
Mr. Newsom then restated that our activities were aimed at alerting Burundi and other African governments to a danger of events such as have occurred last year and this year. He then stated quote the message I wish to convey is that normal relations between the US and Burundi and our ability to be positive on issues of concern to black African leaders are jeopardized if Burundi or African leaders do not take steps to insure that this horrible human tragedy does not occur again. How to stop it is a problem for the countries in the area end quote. He then cited recent reports that the situation in Burundi was improving and that Pres. Micombers had made a broadcast which clearly indicated his desire to avoid future events of this kind.
The Burundi Amb. then asked again what the conditions in Burundi that the US regarded as necessary for re-establishment of normal relations.
Mr. Newsom said he did not presume to tell GRB how to [Page 3] run country but pointed out that feeling in US was generally that GRB was minority government exerting forced domination of large majority similiar to situation in southern white ruled Africa. He stated that this was not official USG view, but was opinion he encountered. He said his role was to explain the problem to the Burundi Ambassador so that his government could understand and respond appropriately. What is required is clear evidence of national reconciliation in which majority and minority have role of equality and equal rights in the country. Mr. Newsom also mentioned the need for the GRB to admit reporters to tell story of what was going on in Burundi in order to offset the bad press concerning burundi.
Amb Ndabaniew took issue with this view of Burundi, but said he understood it was public opinion, not USG position.
Mr. Newsom then restated that USG was under strong pressure to take steps against GRB, but did not want to do so. It is up to GRB to take necessary steps in order that US and Burundi relations may be restored to normal levels.
The discussion ended on friendly note with mutual statements of appreciation for frankness and honesty. The Burundi Ambassador said he would faithfully report USG position to GRB and looked forward to continuing dialogue upon his return.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL Burundi-US. Limited Official Use; Immediate. Repeated to Addis Ababa, Brussels, Dar Es Salaam, Kigali, Kinshasa, Lagos, Rome, and USUN New York. Drafted by Siefken; cleared by Cohen; approved by Newsom.
  2. At Burundi Ambassador Ndabaniwe’s request, Newsom clarified U.S. policy toward Burundi. He noted that the U.S. Government was under strong pressure to take steps against Burundi, but did not want to do so.