Former President of Burundi Pierre Buyoya (1987-1993 and 1996-2003) died in Paris at the age of 71 as a result of Covid-19, a few weeks after resigning from his post as High Representative of the African Union (AU) for Mali and the Sahel.
“President Pierre Buyoya died last night in Paris. He had Covid-19, ”a member of his family told AFP who requested anonymity. The death of Mr. Buyoya was confirmed to AFP by several other relatives.
Mr. Buyoya “had been hospitalized last Wednesday last week (December 9, ed) in a Bamako hospital where he had been placed on a ventilator,” the member of his family told AFP.
“He was evacuated to Paris yesterday”, early Thursday afternoon, “his plane made a stopover and arrived in France overnight. He died in an ambulance which took him to a Parisian hospital for treatment, ”said this source.
Mr. Buyoya’s career reflects the contemporary history of Burundi: chaotic.
Mr. Buyoya, a Tutsi from a modest background, first made his career in the army before becoming president in 1987 following a coup d’état against Jean-Baptiste Bagaza, also a Tutsi, against a background of military grumbling.
During his first term, he worked to open up the democratic space in Burundi, a process which culminated in 1993 with the election as head of the country of Melchior Ndadaye, the first democratically elected president of Burundi and the first Hutu to come to power. . The Hutu represent around 85% of the population of Burundi.
He returned to power in 1996, again following a coup d’état. Burundi was then plunged into a civil war, opposing the army dominated by the Tutsi minority to Hutu rebel groups.
The war began in 1993 with the assassination of Mr. Ndadaye in a military coup, less than four months after coming to power.
Mr. Buyoya signed the Arusha Accords in 2000, which aimed to put an end to the civil war – 300,000 dead until 2006 – and left power in 2003 in accordance with these agreements.
“Wash your honor”
In October, Mr. Buyoya was sentenced in Burundi in absentia to life imprisonment for the assassination of Mr. Ndadaye.
In addition to Mr. Buyoya, around twenty senior military and civilian officials close to the former head of state were sentenced to life imprisonment or heavy prison terms for complicity in the assassination of Mr. Ndadaye. The verdict was delivered in the absence of the main defendants and their lawyers.
Mr. Buyoya resigned at the end of November from his role as AU special envoy to “wash (his) honor”.
The name of Pierre Buyoya had already been mentioned in connection with this assassination, without the beginning of proof being provided.
As soon as his conviction was announced, Mr. Buyoya had denounced “a political trial carried out in a scandalous manner” and orchestrated according to him by the authorities in place for political purposes, in particular that of “carrying out a major politico-ethnic mobilization”.
Burundi has been ruled since 2005 by the CNDD-FDD, a party resulting from the former main Hutu rebellion, accused of repressing any dissenting voice since a new political crisis in which the country plunged in 2015.
The main leader of the CNDD-FDD, Pierre Nkurunziza, president of Burundi from 2005 to 2020, died suddenly on June 8, a few weeks after the election of his designated dolphin as head of state, Evariste Ndayishimiye.
Many Burundians and observers stationed in Bujumbura strongly suspect that Mr. Nkurunziza, who according to a medical source contacted by AFP was in “respiratory distress” at the time of his death, himself succumbed to Covid-19.