Burundi Civil War

Burundi Civil War

The Burundi Civil War very much mirrored events in neighbouring Rwanda, with tribal factions between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes (above) erupting into violence over a struggle for power. Following independence from Belgium in 1962, the country came under the rule of King Mwambutsa IV, a Tutsi. The first parliamentary elections were held under the newly independent country's constitution on the 10th May 1965 just a few months after Burundi's first Hutu Prime Minister was assassinated by a Rwandan Tutsi refugee just eight days into his second term of office. In the election the Hutu won a majority however King Mwambutsa refused to appoint the Hutu leader Gervais Nyangoma as Prime Minister instead appointing his former personal secretary Leopold Biha, a Tutsi, to the role.

On October 18th that year, Gervais Nyangoma launched a coup against the king which triggered a massacre of Tutsis by the largely Hutu police force in some parts of the country. The coup failed and order was restored with Mwambutsa still king, however there were brutal Tutsi retaliations with thousands of ordinary Hutu as well as their political leaders being shot. In 1966 Mwambutsa IV was deposed by his son Ntare V who appointed the Secretary of Defence Michel Micombero as prime minister, who had crushed the uprising against his father.

Michel Micombero

However within months on 28th November 1966, Micombero staged a military coup and installed himself as president (above centre with Idi Amin of Uganda on his right and the President of Rwanda on his left.) There followed twenty five years of Tutsi military rule much to the resentment of the Hutu population as only 15% of Burundians are Tutsi with the remaining being of Hutu ethnicity. This period saw a series of military coups and civil insurrections leaving hundreds of thousands of Hutu dead, however at the end of this period, following another coup by Maj. Pierre Buyoya, reforms were instigated to help heal the country's ethnic divisions and elections called.

Ironically this easing of state control only served to inflame ethnic tensions as they raised expectations of an end to Tutsi minority control of the country and there were revolts, particularly in the north of Burundi against Tutsi leaders in which hundreds of Tutsi families were killed. Buyoya responded by sending in the army and thousands of Hutu were killed. Despite this, Buyoya continued with his liberalising reforms and allowed multi party elections in 1993, an election which saw Burundi's first ever democratically elected president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu and both former leader of the 'Mouvement des Etudiants Progressistes Barundi au Rwanda', (a movement of exiled Burundian students) and a founding father of the Burundi Workers' Party, take office on July 10th 1993.

Melchior Ndadaye

Ndadaye (above) established a pro-Hutu government however appointed Sylvie Kinigi, a female Tutsi (though married to a Hutu), as the Prime Minister in an act of conciliation. His presidency though was to be short lived as he was assassinated along with six of his ministers just over three months later on 21st October 1993 during a failed military coup by disgruntled Tutsi members of the armed forces. In response, the Hutu rose in their masses and started slaughtering Tutsis.

Cyprien Ntaryamira Assassination

Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Minister for Agriculture and a Hutu, was selected as Ndadaye's successor on 5th February 1994 in the hope that his moderate views would ease the violence ravaging the country, however just two months later, on 6th April 1994, he was assassinated along with Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana when his plane was shot down (above) as it came in to land at Kigali airport in Rwanda. The Burundi civil war then broke out in earnest, with an estimated 300,000 dead between 1993 and the end of the civil war in 2005. 500,000 left the country as refugees and a further 800,000 fled their homes.

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