Sylvie Kinigi

Sylvie Kinigi. She became the acting President of Burundi on October 27, 1993.

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The forgotten Sylvie Kinigi: East Africa's first female President

Sylvie Kinigi is long forgotten. But on October 27, 1993, she was sworn in as acting President of Burundi following the ouster of Francois Ngeze, the head of Committee of Public Salvation that had taken over power, albeit for a short time, following the assassination of President Mechior Ndadaye.

This was during the chaotic transition that followed the death of President Ndadaye during an attempted coup lead by his chief of staff Lt Col Jean Bikomagu.

Ngeze had been defeated at the ballot box by President Ndadaye, who had picked Ms Kinigi as his prime minister.

Civilian rule

But after the assassination of President Ndadaye – the first democratically elected President of the country – there was immense international pressure from the international community to reinstate civilian rule.  But some of the senior members of Ndadaye's government had died or escaped into exile.

Ms Kinigi took refuge at the French embassy in Bujumbura and it is from here where she negotiated with the army to allow civilian rule. She was later installed as acting President to replace Ngeze, imposed by the predominantly Tutsi army, while awaiting the election of a new president.

It is believed that the 1994 coup collapsed after some senior military officers, led by strongman Pierre Buyoya, denounced the coup plotters. The  country was also rocked by a wave of killings between the Hutu and Tutsi as the army allowed Ms Kinigi to be the acting President.

But Ms Kinigi did not stay long in power and on February 5, 1994, Parliament picked Agriculture minister Cyprien Ntaryamira as new President and as a compromise candidate in the raging power struggle. But Ntaryamira would die on April 6, 1994 as the plane carrying him and Rwanda's Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down – thus triggering the Rwanda genocide.

With constant attacks from within Burundi, Ms Kinigi resigned as Prime Minister and her position was taken by  Anatole Kanyenkiko. She then left Burundi and has been involved in various peace and democracy missions in Africa.