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History, Further Instability

Cyprien Ntaryamira, Melchior Ndadaye, Pierre Buyoya, Buyoya, extraordinary measures

In June 1993 Burundi held its first democratic presidential elections since independence. Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu and a member of the Burundi Democracy Front, won the elections with 60 percent of the vote. Buyoya stepped down peacefully, retired from the army, and remained politically active. In October 1993 army factions loyal to Bagaza assassinated Ndadaye, and instability in neighboring Rwanda spread to Burundi. Ndadaye’s death provoked waves of ethnic violence that sent thousands of refugees fleeing into neighboring Rwanda. Cyprien Ntaryamira, a Hutu who replaced Ndadaye, attempted to restore order by reining in the Tutsi-dominated security forces implicated in the violence. In April 1994, shortly after concluding talks, Ntaryamira and Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana were killed in a suspicious plane crash near Kigali, Rwanda. Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, former head of the National Assembly, was named acting president and was formally elected in September 1994. However, Burundi was locked in a stalemate between the elected, Hutu-dominated government and the Tutsi-led army. The situation continued to deteriorate, exacerbated by the influx of thousands of refugees from Rwanda. Many government functions ceased.

In July 1996 Pierre Buyoya seized power in another military coup and suspended the constitution, claiming that extraordinary measures were necessary to ensure national survival. In September 1996 Roman Catholic archbishop Joachim Ruhuna, a Tutsi, was killed in an ambush by Hutu rebels. In response to public outcry over the murder, Buyoya permitted some political party and parliamentary activity. In 1998 Buyoya and the National Assembly agreed upon a transitional constitution under which Buyoya was formally sworn in as president. A new transitional constitution was adopted in October 2001. This constitution calls for a three-year transitional government that shares power between Hutu and Tutsi parties. Under this scheme, Buyoya was to remain president for 18 months with a Hutu vice president, and then a Hutu would become president with a Tutsi vice president. At the same time, membership in the legislature and the military would be carefully balanced between Hutu and Tutsi.

Violence continued despite the power-sharing agreement. Since 1993 ethnic violence has claimed more than 150,000 lives in Burundi, and has led to the displacement of some 700,000 people.

Article key phrases:

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