former president Pierre Buyoya convicted of the murder of Melchior Ndadaye

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Burundi’s Supreme Court sentenced former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya, along with 18 other relatives, to life in prison for the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye, which plunged the country into a decade of civil war that left more than 300,000 dead.

Nearly 27 years ago, on that day, September 21, 1993, Melchior Ndadaye, the first democratically elected Hutu president in Burundi, was assassinated. Former President Pierre Buyoya, now senior representative of the African Union in Mali and the Sahel, is sentenced in absentia to life in prison for “an attack on the head of state against authority from state and attacks that tend to bring massacres and destruction”.

Eighteen other personalities in the Burundian high administration of his time, soldiers and civilians, are sentenced to the same sentence, while three others receive 20 years in prison for “complicity” in the same crimes. Only one accused, former Transitional Minister Antoine Nduwayo, will be acquitted. Only five of these personalities, including four former senior officers in prison for nearly two years, were in the accused’s box for this lawsuit held in Gitega from November 2018 to September last year. All the others including Pierre Buyoya live abroad and are subject to international arrest warrants.

A verdict in the absence of the accused

The 21 defendants are also ordered to pay the equivalent amount of 45 million euros to the Burundian state “as material and moral compensation”. The government intends to pay for the sale of all their property in Burundi, which it seized two years ago.

The verdict was handed down Tuesday in the absence of the defendants and their lawyers, who had not been notified. One of them condemns an “unfair trial that violated Burundian law as well as the peace agreement for Burundi”, signed in 2000 in Arusha, and which had granted immunity to all the protagonists of the Burundian conflict.

A leading employee of the ruling party is very pleased with “Historical trial that repairs an injustice”. So far, only a dozen “executives,” whose highest rank was lieutenant, have been convicted in 1998 for the assassination of President Ndadaye.

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