President Ntaryamira Day is an annual holiday that takes place on April 6 in the Republic of Burundi. It’s a solemn day commemorating the anniversary of the death of President Cyprien Ntaryamira in 1994. Burundi’s Parliament elected Ntaryamira as the next president in early 1994, following the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye who became Burundi’s first democratically elected president in June 1993. Unfortunately, both President Ntaryamira and Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana died on April 6, 1994, in a plane crash in Rwanda. These events heralded the Rwandan Genocide and resulted in one of the darkest periods in African history. On this day, government offices, schools, and businesses in Burundi are closed to observe the solemn anniversary.
History of President Ntaryamira Day
Born on March 6, 1955, in Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira was educated as an agricultural engineer. He co-founded the Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU) in 1986, and the political party won Burundi’s general elections in 1993. FRODEBU is largely credited for the success of Burundi’s first truly democratic election which saw Melchior Ndadaye emerge as president. Ntaryamira was appointed as the Minister of Agriculture in July 1993. However, the ruling Tutsis felt threatened by the victory of the Hutus at the polls. Tutsi soldiers assassinated President Ndadaye (a Hutu) and other top officials after just three months in office. Following Ndadaye’s tragic demise, the Burundian Parliament elected Ntaryamira (also Hutu) to become president. Ntaryamira was inaugurated on February 5, 1994, and he worked towards restoring national unity, peace, and human rights.
President Ntaryamira was regarded as a “moderate reformer” and he seemed to enjoy popular support. Unfortunately, on the evening of April 6, 1994, the plane Ntaryamira flew in alongside Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana (also a Hutu) was shot down with missiles as the aircraft prepared to land at Kigali International Airport, Rwanda. All 12 people aboard the aircraft died, and the unfortunate demise of the two Hutu presidents kickstarted the horrible Rwandan genocide, one of the most calamitous events of the late 20th century. The identity of the perpetrators of the assassination remains unknown and many theories exist about who were the actual killers of both Hutu national leaders.
President Ntaryamira Day timeline
Cyprien Ntaryamira is born in Burundi.
Ntaryamira co-founds the Front for Democracy in Burundi (FRODEBU).
Ntaryamira is inaugurated as Burundi’s president on February 5.
Presidents Cyprien Ntaryamira and Juvénal Habyarimana (of Rwanda) are assassinated in Rwanda on April 6.
President Ntaryamira Day FAQs
Who shot down President Habyarimana?
Some initially suspected the Hutu extremists who carried out the ensuing genocide. However, some reports attribute the assassination to the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (R.P.F.) on the orders of Paul Kagame, who subsequently became Rwanda’s president.
How long has Kagame been president?
Paul Kagame has led Rwanda as president since March 24, 2000.
What happened to the president of Rwanda?
Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, President Cyprien Ntaryamira (of Burundi), and 10 others died when a private Dassault Falcon 50 jet was hit by surface-to-air missiles on April 6, 1994, in Kigali, Rwanda. Habyarimana was 57.
How to Observe President Ntaryamira Day
Listen to national broadcasts
On this solemn occasion, listen to the speeches given by top government officials. Honor the memories of the slain president and victims of the tragic national genocide.
Read history books
You can learn many lessons about the life and times of President Ntaryamira from history books. This national holiday offers a great opportunity to read about the reforms he led and the ideas he believed in.
Uphold national unity
As history has shown, crisis looms when national unity is threatened. On this solemn observance, look for ways to keep Burundi in unity and peace.
5 Interesting Facts About Burundi
The first Olympic gold medal
Vénuste Niyongabo secured the first position in the 5,000-meter race and Burundi won a gold medal for the first time in Olympic history in 1996.
Two capital cities
In 2019, Burundi’s Parliament decided to make Gitega, the country’s second-largest city, the political capital of the country while Bujumbura remains its economic capital.
Poor internet access
Only about 5.2% of Burundi’s population has access to the internet.
Home to a man-eating crocodile
Gustave, a man-eating crocodile responsible for killing hundreds of people, is believed to live in Lake Tanganyika.
Group jogging is outlawed
President Pierre Nkurunziza has made group jogging an illegal activity since 2014, supposedly because people could use it as a cover to plan anti-government rebellions.
Why President Ntaryamira Day is Important
A national day of remembrance
This public holiday remembers the unfortunate demise of a national leader. It’s a day dedicated to commemorating President Ntaryamira’s patriotism and national service.
Remembering the victims of the genocide
In Rwanda, more than 800,000 lives were lost in the wake of the assassination. This day also remembers and honors the memories of the helpless victims of the genocide.
A day to preach unity
The assassinations and the ensuing genocide were offshoots of animosity and tribalism. On this day, we can emphasize the need for peaceful coexistence and national unity.
President Ntaryamira Day dates