The Supreme court in Burundi has Tuesday sentenced former President Pierre Buyoya in absentia and 18 others to life imprisonment for their role in the assassination of the country’s first democratically elected President Melchoir Ndadaye.
The 19 were found guilty of carrying out an attacking on the Head of State; an attack against the authority of the State and attempt to bring massacre and devastation to Burundi.
Former Prime Minister Antoine Nduwayo on the other hand was acquitted after court found no evidence that he participated in the crimes.
Buyoya Currently working as the Special Representative and Head of the African led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) was in 2018 along others issued with international arrest warrants by then Burundian Attorney General Sylvestre Nyandwi, for suspected involvement in assassinating the country’s first Hutu President Ndadaye.
Mr Buyoya, an ethnic Tutsi however, says the charges are a ploy to stir up divisions and shift attention from the crisis the country is facing.
Ndadaye was killed on Oct. 21, 1993, just 102 days after he was sworn in as president.
Despite the adoption of an ethnic unity Charter on Feb. 5, 1991, when the country’s three main ethnic groups — Hutu, Tutsi and Twa — accepted to live in harmony and avoid confrontations, one of the biggest crises broke out with the assassination of Ndadaye, which sparked inter-ethnic violence with at least 300,000 victims.
The unresolved case of Melchior Ndadaye’s killing has always come up mostly on his death anniversary with many Burundian Hutus asking for justice.
A number of low-ranking soldiers were found guilty of his killing in 1999, but some people felt true justice had not been done.
In December 2018, the government arrested four former senior military officers and a civilian – and then issued the international arrest warrants.
Most of those on the list were also retired army officers or former officials once in the top leadership of the predominantly Tutsi Uprona party.
Most of them live in neighbouring Rwanda or Belgium, the former colonial power.