How Many Atrocities Does It Take To Get Into USA Today?Commentary • World • Opinion • death • media • ISSUE 35•44 • Dec 1, 1999 By President Pierre Buyoya, Burundi President Pierre Buyoya, Burundi I slaughter, and I slaughter, and I slaughter. And do I get any recognition for all my bloodshed? Nope. Since seizing power in Burundi in a 1996 military coup, I have been responsible for countless barbarous acts, committing far worse crimes against humanity than that so-called madman Slobodan Milosevic. Yet it's as if I don't even exist! How many atrocities does it take to get into USA Today? I'm a single man holding an entire nation in a grip of terror, yet I've never made so much as USA Today's World Roundup column. I'm doing my best to run a brutal regime that has caused mass human suffering, but I can order only so many arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions. Sure, Amnesty International may be talking about me, but who ever listens to them? At the very least, I deserve a mention in Larry King's column. It's not like this for other dictators, you know. Milosevic got his picture in both Time and Newsweek. And a few months back, people were even paying attention to what Suharto was doing in East Timor. But over here in Burundi, I'm up to my elbows in bloody machetes and human heads, and no one even cares. There's been some really gruesome carnage here lately, if anyone would just take the time to notice. Is America's largest daily newspaper not aware that my army recently massacred thousands of unarmed civilians under the pretense of destroying rebel bases? Apparently not, because the day it happened, they led with a story about the lack of Y2K preparedness among major U.S. airlines. Come on! What will it take? If there isn't room for a full story, perhaps USA Today could run a chart detailing my major human-rights violations. I could even help write it. There are one million Burundi refugees, many of whom are Hutus I forcibly relocated to camps where, at this very minute, they are dying of disease and starvation. That's worth writing about, isn't it? I may not be Tiger Woods or Ricky Martin, but I'm doing some pretty newsworthy things over here, aren't I? Our borders are open to American journalists. If you come here to expose my incomprehensible cruelties, you have my solemn word that I will not order you executed. In fact, you can even stay at my palatial presidential compound in Bujumbura. From your room, you will hear for yourself the screams of political prisoners as they are tortured at my nearby military compound. You could stroll around the city and see firsthand how my people live in fear for their lives. They will tell you how members of their family have "disappeared." And then you can return home and write all about it on page 11 or 12! True, there was that article about me in The New York Times last year. But I've shown that clipping to so many people already. The photo is so worn, you can hardly even tell it's me anymore. And besides, it wasn't a very flattering picture in the first place. Please. I implore you. Make me world-famous. Yes, the tables have turned, and it is now I who begs. The name Buyoya should be synonymous with evil by now. I've played it out so many times in my head, I know just how it would go. After the big USA Today piece, Dan Rather's people would hound me to do an interview. Finally, after weeks of turning them down, I would agree on the condition that the interview is non-confrontational. Though Rather starts out benignly enough, asking me about Burundi's poor economy and our civil war, he soon turns on me. He wants to discuss a specific incident in 1998 in which thousands of Hutus were massacred. I become visibly uncomfortable. He demands to know why I insist that there were only 5,000 deaths, when several independent accounts put the number at 20,000. Flustered, I answer, "You know nothing of the complexities of our affairs. In the name of progress, sometimes people must die." People everywhere are shocked at my cruelty and cold indifference, and my picture is in newspapers all across America! Perhaps even your great comedian Jay Leno makes a joke about me. Alas, for now, this is only a dream of mine. But I will not give up. I will make USA Today notice me, even if a million more innocents must die.