1993 ethnic violence in Burundi

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People fleeing during 1993 Burundian genocide

The 1993 mass killings of Tutsis by the majority-Hutu populace in Burundi are described as genocide in the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi presented to the United Nations Security Council in 1996.[1]


The demographics of Burundi through the 1960s and 1970s were roughly 86 percent Hutu, 13 percent Tutsi, and 1 percent Twa.[2] For most of this period, the Tutsi maintained a near monopoly on senior government and military positions. Burundi gained its independence from Belgium in 1962, and in May 1965 the first post-independence elections were held. The Hutu candidates scored a landslide victory, capturing 23 seats out of a total 33. But, instead of appointing a Hutu prime minister, the king Mwambutsa IV appointed a Tutsi prince, Léopold Biha, as Prime Minister. On October 18, 1965, Hutus, angry with the king's decision, attempted a coup. The king fled the country, but the coup ultimately failed.[3]

In 1972 another Hutu coup attempt was crushed by the Tutsi-dominated government and armed forces, resulting in a genocide in which between 100,000 and 150,000, mostly Hutus, were killed.[4]


Tensions between Burundi and Rwanda rise in the 1990s[edit]

In October 1990, Rwandan exiles, mostly Tutsi, who had served for years in the Ugandan Armed Forces, invaded Rwanda. The next three years consisted of war between the Hutu government and the invading forces known as the Rwanda Patriotic Front. In 1993 emissaries from the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) made a peace agreement. A ceasefire was in effect from then on until April 6. On April 6, 1994, the presidents of both Burundi and Rwanda were returning to the Rwandan capital of Kigali with other regional leaders from peace talks in Tanzania when their aircraft was shot down. The Rwandan president was under strong international pressure to implement the 1993 peace agreement.

Ethnic polarization escalates in Burundi during the 1990s[edit]

In June 1993 in Burundi, the Hutu Party, Front pour la Démocratie au Burundi, FRODEBU, and its presidential candidate, Melchior Ndadaye, won the election and formed the first Hutu government in the country. Tensions began to escalate almost immediately. Small bands of Hutu and Tutsi 'gangs' consistently fought both in and around the then-capital, Bujumbura, often growing into larger groups armed with machetes and attacking each other.


Tensions finally reaching the boiling point on 21 October 1993 when President Ndadaye was assassinated during a coup attempt, and the country descended into a period of civil strife. Some FRODEBU structures[5] responded violently to Ndadaye's assassination, killing "possibly as many as 25,000 Tutsi".[6] Trying to bring order back, elements of the Burundian army and Tutsi civilians[5] launched attacks on Hutus, including innocent civilians as well as the rebels, resulting in "at least as many" deaths as had been caused by the initial rebellion.[6]

Assessment of the violence as genocide[edit]

In 2002 the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi called the 1993 mass killing of Tutsis a genocide.[7] The question of whether the killings of Tutsis arose from a planned genocide or from spontaneous violence remains heavily disputed among academics and Burundians who lived through the events.[8]


  1. ^ "International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi" (PDF). United Nations. 22 August 1996. pp. 19, 75. S/1996/682. Retrieved 15 September 2017: Paragraphs 85 and 496.CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  2. ^ Mann, M. (2005). The Dark Side of Democracy. p. 431.
  3. ^ "This Burundi king was buried in Geneva, but his nation wanted him back". This Burundi king was buried in Geneva, but his nation wanted him back. Retrieved 2020-05-26.
  4. ^ Israel Charny (2000) Encyclopedia of Genocide ABC-CLIO ISBN 9780874369281 p.510
  5. ^ a b International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi (2002). Paragraph 486.
  6. ^ a b Totten, p. 331
  7. ^ International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi (2002). Paragraph 496.
  8. ^ Turner 2012, p. 1.

Works cited[edit]

Further reading[edit]