Burundi ex-leader quits AU envoy job after convicted of killing vote rival

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Burundi ex-president Pierre Buyoya (AFP)
Burundi ex-president Pierre Buyoya (AFP)
  • Pierre Buyoya has been convicted for the 1993 killing of another president.
  • The murder triggered a 10-year civil war which claimed at least 300 000 lives.
  • Buyoya has been an AU envoy for eight years.


Burundi's ex-President Pierre Buyoya said on Wednesday he had resigned his position as an African Union envoy after his conviction and life sentence last month for the 1993 killing of another president who defeated him in an election.

Along with 18 others, Buyoya was convicted in absentia by the Supreme Court for the killing of Melchior Ndadaye, the country's first democratically elected president, that triggered a 10-year civil war which claimed at least 300 000 lives.

In a tweet, Buyoya, whose whereabouts are not known, said he had resigned his position as the AU's envoy for Mali and the Sahel region.

"Following the verdict given by the Supreme Court of my country, I have decided, by my own will, to resign as the AU high representative for Mali and the Sahel" he said.

"I want to be free of all constraints to devote my time for my defence despite numerous obstructions."

He tweeted after the ruling in October that he would appeal against his conviction in national and international courts, posting a statement that the case was "purely political".

ALSO READ | Burundi ex-president to appeal murder conviction

Buyoya had been an AU envoy for eight years. In 2018 Burundi's top government prosecutor issued an international arrest warrant for Buyoya and his co-accused.

Ndadaye, a Hutu, was shot dead along with several officials in an ambush by ethnic Tutsi soldiers four months after he won election, touching off the protracted civil war that was fought mostly along the Hutu-Tutsi ethnic divide.

Ndadaye's successor, Cyprien Ntaryamira, and then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana died in 1994 when a plane carrying them was shot down by a rocket over Kigali in neighbouring Rwanda, triggering the Rwandan genocide in which 800 000 were killed.

In addition to his life sentence, Buyoya and those convicted alongside him were ordered to collectively pay a fine amounting to 100 billion Burundi Francs ($54 million).

Buyoya ruled Burundi twice, between 1987-1993 and then 1996-2003, having seized power in a military coup on both occasions.

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