FORMER BURUNDI LEADER CONVICTED OF MURDER DIES IN PARIS OF COVID, RELATIVES SAY

Ex-President Pierre Buyoya of Burundi died this week in Paris where he was seeking medical treatment for Covid-19, according to relatives. He was 71.

Prior to contracting the illness, Buyoya had been living in Mali, where he served as special envoy of the African Union to Mali and the Sahel from 2012 until November of this year. An official at the Clinique Pasteur in the capital city of Bamako told Reuters that Buyoya had been treated there before being evacuated to Paris overnight. He gave no further details.

Buyoya resigned in late November after being sentenced the prior month to life imprisonment over the 1993 assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye. He called his prosecution “a political trial conducted in a scandalous manner.”

Buyoya twice seized power in military coups and oversaw a prolonged ethnic civil war that killed 300,000 of his countrymen and women.

He was sentenced in absentia, along with 20 of his relatives, in the murder of President Ndadaye, for attacking the authority of the state, and leading an attack tending to bring about massacre and devastation.”. The accused were given sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.

Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, a former president, said the bodies of Ndadaye along with other dignitaries “died in atrocious conditions.” ″President Ndadaye had bullet wounds on his body and a wound where he was stabbed with a bayonet around his stomach and there are indications that he was hit on the head with the butt of a gun on his head.″

Ndadaye was Burundi’s first democratically elected president in June 1993. He was killed three months later on Oct. 21 in a bloody coup attempt staged by rebels in the Tutsi-dominated army. The putsch ended when senior military officers failed to back the takeover.

The effort sparked vicious clashes in the central African nation between its majority Hutu and minority Tutsi tribes, whose centuries-old animosity periodically erupted in massacres.

Relief and church groups estimate thousands died in the weeklong conflict. Six hundred thousand Burundians – more than one-tenth of the population – fled the carnage and sought refuge in neighboring countries.

In 1996, Mr. Buyoya returned to power with backing from the army, prompting economic sanctions from the international community. He ruled until 2003 when he stepped down in line with the Arusha Accords that ended the civil war.

Another Burundian former president, Pierre Nkurunziza, died in June aged 55 of what the government said was heart failure — but speculation was rife that he had contracted coronavirus.

Unlike its neighbors, Burundi had taken few measures to stop the spread of coronavirus under Nkurunziza, who claimed God had spared the country from its ravages.

His successor President Evariste Ndayishimiye quickly declared Covid-19 the country’s “biggest enemy”. But the deeply isolated country has only officially reported a single Covid-19 death since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Chair of the African Union Commission, H.E Moussa Faki Mahamat, issued a press release declaring Buyoya a “statesman who worked tirelessly for peace and with exceptional commitment both in his country and for the Continent as High Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Mali and the Sahel region, until last November.”