5 MARCH 1988, Page 20

Burundi genocide

Sir: Apropos of Andrew Kenny's article `The racism of Black Africa' (6 February) and the responses by Bernard Levin and Naomi Mitchison (Leters, 13 February), all concerned may be interested to note that genocide in Burundi was, in fact, exposed at some length by Leo Kuper in The Pity of It All (Duckworth, 1977). I cited Kuper's book in my own Martyrs and Fanatics (Secker and Warburg, 1980), quoting from it the following appeal of a Burundi stu- dents' organisation to the heads of African states:

Tutsi apartheid is established more fero- ciously than the apartheid of Vorster, more inhumanely than Portuguese colonialism. Outside of Hitler's Nazi movement, there is nothing to compete with it in world his- tory. . . . Sirs, heads of state, if you wish to help the African peoples of Namibia, Aza- nia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau to liberate themselves from their white oppressors, you have no right to let Africans murder other Africans. . . . Are you waiting until the entire Hutu ethnic group of Burundi is exterminated before raising your voices?

Pace Bernard Levin, I should be very surprised indeed if there were not also other coverage of the Tutsi holocaust in the world press. Why did no one listen when so many are incensed over apartheid? One has to recognise that for the most part anti-apartheid activities outside South Africa really have little to do with that diseased republic as such: they are rituals (of passage and purification) inextricable from the societies in which they flourish. No one had ever heard of, or could identify with, either the Bahutu or their killers, so they served no cathartic purpose in the West.

Naomi Mitchison's letter is an eerie echo. 'We may not like, or totally agree with, the methods that some people choose; but they may know best,' she says. 'Hitler knows best,' decent Germans used similarily to console one another. Well, questioning the Fiihrer might have meant a one-way ticket to a concentration camp. But Mitchison's justification for abdicating her right to think is less obvious.

Peter Dreyer

Myrtle Hill, 1340 Bruceville Road, Keymar,

Maryland 2157-9230, USA