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BURUNDI-WOMEN: HARD ROAD TO TRAVEL

HORACE AWORI

BUJUMBURA, Dec 21 1994 (IPS) - AFTER MELCHIOR NDADAYE WAS ELECTED BURUNDI’S PRESIDENT IN JULY 1993, HE APPOINTED THREE WOMEN TO HIS CABINET AND NAMED TWO MORE AS PROVINCIAL GOVERNORS.

HIS MOVE WAS UNPRECEDENTED IN A COUNTRY WHOSE POLITICAL SYSTEM HAS ALWAYS BEEN DOMINATED BY MEN.

THEN THINGS WENT WRONG. IN OCTOBER 1993, THREE MONTHS AFTER HE TOOK OFFICE, NDADAYE WAS GUNNED DOWN BY RENEGADE SOLDIERS. HIS DEATH HAS SHATTERED HOPES FOR AN IMPROVEMENT OF THE SITUATION OF WOMEN IN THE TINY CENTRAL AFRICAN COUNTRY.

“NDADAYE NOT ONLY WANTED WOMEN IN HIGH OFFICE, BUT ALSO PLANNED TO DEVELOP RURAL AREAS WHERE THE MAJORITY OF WOMEN LIVE UNDER VERY DIFFICULT CONDITIONS,” SAYS AGATHA BICAMUPAKA, A SCHOOL TEACHER HERE.

THE LATE PRESIDENT HAD ALSO PROPOSED TO SET UP A COMMERCIAL BANK EXCLUSIVELY FOR WOMEN IN BURUNDI, RECALLS BICAMUPAKA. “ALL THESE GOOD INTENTIONS HAVE FALLEN BY THE WAYSIDE BECAUSE OF THE POLITICAL INSTABILITY THAT FOLLOWED HIS MURDER.”

WOMEN AND CHILDREN FORMED THE BULK OF THE 50,000-ODD PEOPLE MURDERED LAST YEAR IN THE BLOODLETTING THAT FOLLOWED THE LATE PRESIDENT’S DEATH.

THIS YEAR, HUNDREDS MORE HAVE DIED. SOME HAVE BEEN KILLED BY HUTU GUNMEN, OTHERS DIED DURING ARMY REPRISALS AGAINST HUTU VILLAGERS ACCUSED OF SHELTERING A REBEL FORCE LED BY FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER LEONARD NYANGOMA.

NYANGOMA, EXILED IN NEIGHBOURING ZAIRE, HAS CREATED A GROUP CALLED THE COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF DEMOCRACY (CDD). “IT HAS SOME 30,000 ARMED SUPPORTERS,” A MEMBER OF THE CO-GOVERNING FRONT FOR DEMOCRACY IN BURUNDI (FRODEBU), TOLD IPS IN BUJUMBURA LAST WEEK.

THE FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER BROKE AWAY FROM FRODEBU AFTER ACCUSING THE PARTY’S LEADER, PRESIDENT SYLVESTRE NTIBANTUNGANYA, OF MAKING TOO MANY CONCESSIONS TO THE TUTSI-DOMINATED ARMY AND OPPOSITION.

THE TUTSI, WHO RULED THE COUNTRY BETWEEN 1962, WHEN BURUNDI GAINED INDEPENDENCE FROM BELGIUM, AND 1993, MAKE UP ABOUT 14 PERCENT OF BURUNDI’S SIX MILLION PEOPLE. ABOUT 85 PERCENT ARE HUTUS AND SOME ONE PERCENT ARE TWAS (PYGMIES).

 
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