Global Board Urges Peace in African Great Lakes Region

11/6/1996 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The board of the Division for Global Mission, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, urged measures including sanctions to bring about peace and reconciliation in the Great Lakes region of East Africa.  In the action taken at its meeting here Oct. 23-26 the board cited "the dire situation for refugees, displaced persons and the civilian population in the countries of the Great Lakes region."
     As the board acted, change was underway in East Africa; hundreds of thousands of refugees in Eastern Zaire fled open warfare between the Zaire military and the ethnic Tutsi people of Zaire known as Banyamulenge.
     The board noted "the impact on the future of democracy and the rule of law in the region of the July 1996 coup d'etat against the democratically-elected government of Burundi."
     Amani Mwenegoha, secretary general of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, called upon the ELCA and the U.S. government "to support sanctions imposed against the Burundi military government which is a threat to peace and democracy in Africa."
     He said, "The African leaders have taken the initiative; it is high time your government supports this initiative." Mwenegoha addressed the board as a guest.
     Mwenegoha reminded the board of the 1994 "genocide in Rwanda and the resultant mass exodus of refugees into neighboring countries of Tanzania and Zaire," the coup d'etat which toppled President Ndadaye in Burundi and "Pierre Boyoya who usurped up power in Burundi since July this year."
     Mwenegoha said, "For the first time since African states gained political independence in the early '60s, African leaders in the Great Lakes region, led by Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, have taken an unprecedented and serious decision to impose political and economic sanctions against the military junta in Burundi" until peace and democracy is restored there.  "This is the first most serious attempt by African leaders to solve their own problems," he said.
     "Dictatorships should not be allowed to thrive in Africa," Mwenegoha said.  "We need your support to nurture our newly-born baby in Africa, democracy."
    Mwenegoha said his church is "generally supportive" of the sanctions, "although we know the negative implications and ethical controversies of imposing sanctions against a country."
     Buyoyo, leader of Burundi, has "in cold blood, murdered the Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna of the Roman Catholic Church in Burundi, for taking up his prophetic role, when the archbishop called upon the Tutsi military and the Hutu military to stop senseless killings of innocent people in Burundi and to negotiate a peaceful solution," Mwenegoha said.
     He called upon the international community to "establish an independent commission to investigate the murder of this archbishop so that the truth is known and the culprits are brought to justice."
     The Division for Global Mission board called upon ELCA Church Council to ask units of the church to advocate for such a commission, "in consultation and cooperation with its ecumenical partners, with the U.S. government, the United Nations, and other governments and governmental bodies."
     The action called for advocacy to "utilize economic and political measures, as may be appropriate, including the possible imposition of sanctions against the military regime in Burundi, to bring about an end to the strife in that nation and to foster a climate more conducive to peace and reconciliation throughout the Great Lakes region."
     In September the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches issued a statement lamenting the assassination of Archbishop Ruhuna and condemning "the continued use of violence by the armed groups and the military in Burundi to destroy innocent civilian life and property in the country."  The WCC called on the military leadership "to take immediate steps to reestablish constitutional rule."

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service, (312)
380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir., (312)
380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG


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