Cyprien Ntaryamira : biography
Cyprien Ntaryamira (6 March 1955 – 6 April 1994), was President of Burundi from 5 February 1994 until his death when his plane was shot down on 6 April 1994.
Ntaryamira was born in the Mageyo zone’s commune of Mubimbi, Bujumbura Rural Province, in what was then the Belgian-dominated United Nations Trust Territory of Burundi. He entered school in Bujumbura, but after an abortive Hutu rebellion in 1972, he and thousands of other ethnic Hutus fled the country.
Ntaryamira eventually received a degree in agriculture from the National University of Rwanda in Butare in 1982. During this time, he became politically active in socialist movements. He returned to his native country in 1983 to work as an agricultural official. He was a political prisoner of the regime of Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza briefly in 1985.
In August 1986, he became a founding member and economic policy director of the Hutu-dominated Front for Democracy in Burundi party (FRODEBU). His party gained power after Burundi’s first democratic elections in 1993, ending a long history of rule by the Tutsi minority and the Union for National Progress (UPRONA). New president, Melchior Ndadaye, appointed Ntaryamira Minister of Agriculture.
In October 1993, however, Ndadaye and his two top officials were assassinated sparking parliamentary deadlock and civil war. Nteryamira was selected president on 5 February 1994 as a compromise: He was Hutu, but considered a moderate in Ndadaye’s tradition, while Anatole Kanyenkiko, a UPRONA figure, was made prime minister.
The respite was brief, as the plane carrying Ntaryamira and Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, a fellow Hutu, was shot down by unknown assailants while landing at the Rwandan capital of Kigali killing both. The deaths touched off the Rwandan Genocide.
Two days later, on 8 April, power was passed to Ntaryamira’s longtime associate Sylvestre Ntiybantunganya, president of the National Assembly.