Pierre Buyoya

Former President of Burundi Pierre Buyoya has been sentenced in absentia to life in prison for the assassination of his successor Melchior Ndadaye in 1993 in a court ruling on Monday.

Buyoya was convicted in a court in Burundi after he was found guilty alongside other 18 high ranking officials for a coup-detat that led to the death of the newly elected president and a civil war that left 300,000 Burundians dead.

Buyoya, rose to power in 1987 with the help of the army and later relinquished his seat to the then democratically elected president Ndadaye. However only four months after his election, Ndadaye, of Hutu origins, and a number of his cabinet ministers were killed in a coup attempt carried out by Tutsi soldiers, that led to years of civil unrest as the two ethnic groups went to war.

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Among those convicted with Buyoya are his former deputy presidents Busokoza Bernard and Alphonse Marie Kadege. Three officials were sentenced to 20 years in jail for ‘complicity’ while his former Prime Minister Antoine Nduwayo, was acquitted.

Buyoya went ahead to become Burundi’s president again in 1996 until 2003 and now serves as the African Union’s representative to Mali and Sahel. Sources close to the case say that the accused and his party were sentenced in absentia and only five were present. Lawyers of the former president state that they did not expect the ruling and couldn’t place a plea.