Burundi’s former president Pierre Buyoya on Sunday denounced as politically motivated a warrant issued against him for his alleged role in the assassination of his country’s first democratically elected leader.
On Friday, Burundi issued an international arrest warrant against Buyoya, 11 former senior officials and five civilians close to him over the 1993 killing of Melchior Ndadaye.
“Everything indicates this is a simple political manipulation and another diversionary move aimed at burying painful, unresolved questions” on the crisis currently gripping the country, Buyoya said in a statement.
Buyoya is currently the African Union’s representative in Mali and a respected figure on the continent as well as overseas. A Tutsi, he came to power in 1987 with the help of Burundi’s army.
He stepped down in 1993, when Ndadaye, a Hutu, was elected, but Ndadaye was killed just four months later in an attempted coup by hardline Tutsi soldiers.
That led to several years of civil war between the two ethnic groups, in which an estimated 300,000 people died.
Burundi is currently ruled by the Cndd-FDD party, an offshoot of the main Hutu rebel group.
Buyoya, who also ruled Burundi between 1996 and 2003, said in his statement that the courts had already convicted the officers who had killed Ndadaye.
He also argued that the 2000 Arusha peace accord that helped end the civil war had been designed to settle the conflicts of the past.
News of the arrest warrants caused a stir in the Burundian capital Bujumbura, and opposition activists denounced what they said were the double standards in reviving this case.
None of the Hutu former rebels currently in power was being investigated for the numerous massacres of Tutsis carried out following the assassination of Ndadaye, they argued.