Michel Micombero

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Michel Micombero
Michel Micombero, President of the Republic of Burundi (1966-1976).jpg
1st President of Burundi
In office
28 November 1966 – 1 November 1976
Succeeded by Jean-Baptiste Bagaza
Prime Minister of Burundi
In office
11 July 1966 – 28 November 1966
Preceded by Léopold Biha
Succeeded by post abolished
Personal details
Born 1940
Rutovu, Ruanda-Urundi
Died 16 July 1983 (aged 43)
Mogadishu, Somalia
Political party Union for National Progress (UPRONA)

Michel Micombero (1940 – 16 July 1983) was the first President of Burundi from November 28, 1966 to November 1, 1976. He was born in Rutovu, Bururi Province as a member of the Tutsi ethnicity.

In the years after independence, Burundi had seen a rapid descent into anarchy. The king Mwambutsa IV rapidly changed the Prime Minister as anti-Tutsi forces threatened to unleash the same violence as had hit Rwanda. On October 18, 1965, Hutu leader Gervais Nyangoma launched a coup, ousting the king. Soon afterward the largely Hutu police force, under the control of Antoine Serkwavu, began to massacre Tutsis in some parts of the country.

Michel Micombero was a young Tutsi army captain who had graduated from the Royal Military Academy of Belgium in 1962.[1] In 1965, he had only recently become Minister of Defense. He rallied the army, and its largely Tutsi officers, against the coup and overthrew them. This was followed by numerous attacks on Hutus throughout the nation.

Micombero became Prime Minister on July 11, 1966 and was the real power in the nation technically ruled by King Ntare V, who deposed his father with the help of Micombero.

On November 28, 1966, while the 19-year old King Ntare was out of the country, Micombero overthrew the monarchy and declared Burundi to be a republic with himself president.[2] The overthrow was accomplished with relative ease – Ntare left the symbolic drum that represented his hold on power when he travelled to neighboring Congo and Micombero simply took it and drove to the radio station to declare himself in control.[3] He also promoted himself to lieutenant general.[citation needed]

As president, Micombero became an advocate of African socialism and received support from the People's Republic of China. He imposed a staunch regime of law and order, sharply repressing Hutu militarism.[4]

In 1972, King Ntare attempted to return to the country, with a promise of protection from Micombero. Despite this promise, Ntare was arrested and accused of trying to foment a foreign invasion. When a Tutsi unrest broke out in April 1972, Ntare was executed on orders from Micombero.[4][5] Micombero announced the king's death had actually occurred during a "rescue attempt" by "monarchists", and used the incident as an excuse to take steps against Tutsi rivals.[6] In the civil war that followed, the ruling Tutsis, led by Micombero, killed at least 100,000 Hutus.[2][4] Youth groups and military units under Micombero's control participated in the slaughter of Hutus.[7]

Micombero was a licensed pilot who once landed his own plane after returning from a trip abroad when his pilot became lost and the plane ran low on fuel.[8]

As his rule progressed, Micombero became increasingly corrupt, and also turned to heavy drinking. Some reports allege he became delusional.[4]

He was overthrown in 1976 in a coup by Deputy Chief of Staff Jean-Baptiste Bagaza,[1] a distant relative of Micombero from the same clan and political faction.

Exile and Death[edit]

Micombero went into exile in Somalia, then ruled by dictator Siad Barre who was a close friend. Micombero earned a degree in economics from the University of Somalia in 1982. He died in his sleep of a heart attack in 1983.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Burundi President Deposed By Military". New York Times. Reuters. November 3, 1976. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c UPI. "MICHEL MICOMBERO, 43, DIES; FORMER PRESIDENT OF BURUNDI". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  3. ^ Fellows, Lawrence (December 4, 1966). "A King Without A Drum Or Throne". New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d Bartrop, Paul Robert (2012). A Biographical Encyclopedia of Contemporary Genocide: Portraits of Evil and Good. ABC-CLIO. p. 210. ISBN 978-0313386787. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  5. ^ Gates, Henry Louis; Akyeampong, Emmanuel; Niven, Steven (2012). Dictionary of African Biography, Volume 2. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 502–3. ISBN 0195382072. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  6. ^ Shillington, Kevin (2004). Encyclopedia of African History 3-Volume Set. Routledge. pp. 191–192. ISBN 1579582451. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  7. ^ "Witnesses Tell Of Horror In New Burundi Slaughter". New York Times. June 17, 1973. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
  8. ^ "Tito In Bangladesh". New York Times. January 30, 1974. Retrieved 4 April 2016. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Léopold Biha
Prime Minister of Burundi
Succeeded by
Position abolished
Preceded by
Ntare V Ndizeye
President of Burundi
Succeeded by
Jean-Baptiste Bagaza