Thursday 14 May 2015

Burundi - forgotten tragedy

Burundi is in the throes of an attempted military coup. Trouble started when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he was seeking a third term. Opponents said this breached the constitution, and now rival groups of soldiers are vying for control.

While everyone has heard of the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, in which 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis, were killed by Hutu extremists in 1994, less well known is Burundi’s civil war, which raged from 1993 to 2005, and in which up to 300,000 died.

Before the country got independence in 1962, Belgium, the colonial power, had ruled through a Tutsi elite, and after independence, a series of Tutsi military regimes held power. In 1993, the country’s first democratically elected president, a Hutu, was assassinated by Tutsi extremists.

As many as 150,000 Tutsi were killed in retribution. In 1994, another Hutu president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, died in the same plane crash that killed President Habyarimana of Rwanda, the event that triggered the genocide there.  The Burundian civil war dragged on for another decade, until a power-sharing agreement was reached in 2005 with President Nkurunziza, a Hutu, taking charge.

For Rwanda genocide, see my blogs of 29 May 2011, 31 March and 1 June 2012, 1 June 2013, and 15 March 2014.

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