The gap between Hutu expectations and the realities of Tutsi hegemony lay at the root of the killings of August 1988.
Informed estimates put at 20,000 the number of people killed in the northern communes of Ntega and Marangara; the overwhelming majority were of Hutu origins. As in 1972, the initial outburst of violence--in the wake of countless provocations by local Tutsi officials--came from Hutu elements. Unlike his predecessor in 1972, however, President Buyoya's response to the crisis was surprisingly conciliatory. For one thing, the existence of a Hutu-Tutsi problem had been explicitly recognized by the Bujumbura authorities, along with the need for appropriate solutions. Moreover, a conscious effort had been made to achieve parity of ethnic representation within the government. Finally, and most important, a national commission was entrusted with the task of making specific recommendations to the government to "protect and strengthen the unity of the people of Burundi."