Burundi‘s top court has sentenced a former president to life in prison for the 1993 murder of another president who had defeated him in elections, an attack that triggered a 10-year civil war in which about 300 000 people were killed.

In an October 19 ruling that was seen by Reuters on Tuesday, the court sentenced Pierre Buyoya and 18 others for the death of Melchior Ndadaye, who had defeated Buyoya to become the central African country’s first freely elected president.

Buyoya is at present the African Union’s High Representative for Mali and the Sahel. He could not immediately be reached for comment on the sentencing. Many of those convicted including Buyoya did not appear in court or enter a plea as they are abroad.

Ndadaye was shot dead along with several cabinet ministers in an ambush by ethnic Tutsi soldiers four months after he won the election, touching off protracted ethnic bloodshed between Tutsis and Ndadaye’s Hutu-dominated FRODEBU movement.

FRODEBU was Burundi’s largest political party before Buyoya, a Tutsi, seized power in a 1996 military coup.

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