Burundi’s former president Pierre Buyoya has been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia for assassinating his successor in 1993.
On Monday the court convicted Buyoya for “an attack against the head of state” over his role in killing the country’s first democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, during a coup d’etat which took the country into civil war.
Buyoya together with other 18-high-ranking officials and civilians who were close to him received the same sentencing.
While the other three people were sentenced to 20 years in jail for “complicity” in the crimes while former prime minister Antoine Nduwayo, was acquitted.
Only five of the accused were present while the rest were sentenced in absentia. One of the accused who sought anonymity said that their defense team had not been informed of the ruling date.
Buyoya is currently the African Union’s representative in Mali and a prominent figure on the continent and overseas.
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Buyoya, a Tutsi, rose to power in 1987 with the help of the army. He stepped down in 1993 after Ndadaye, a Hutu, took power, but Ndadaye was killed four months later in an attempted coup spearheaded by Tutsi soldiers.
The murder led to several years of civil war between the two ethnic communities, in which about 300,000 were killed.
Buyoya for the second time became Burundi’s president after the coup d’etat, ruling between 1996 and 2003.