Ntaryamira’s Call for Discipline: 29 Years On

Iris NewsApril 6, 20235min12970

President Ntaryamira is mostly remembered for his inauguration speech. On February 5th, 1994, he declared that discipline would be the top priority of his government. Today, one might ask how well our country has fared in upholding President Ntaryamira’s legacy…

When Ntaryamira – 39 years old, back then – was elected by the Burundian Parliament to the highest office, he delivered a powerful speech in which he declared that discipline would be his top priority as President of the Republic of Burundi.

Remember, Ntaryamira came to power after the assassination of the first democratically elected Burundian President, Melchior Ndadaye, who was killed in a military coup the night of October 20-21, 2022. Ntaryamira was quite lucid to recognize that lack of discipline could be a major obstacle for his government since his predecessor faced hostility that ultimately led to his killing and resulted in mass killings whose consequences are still seen today.

Former President of Burundi Sylvestre Ntibantunganya and old friend to Ntaryamira depicts the situation back then. “When Ntaryamira came to power, the country was going through a crisis. Ntibantunganya : The army could refuse an order coming from the President of the Republic, and the justice system was corrupt. There was also disorder in politics, as some political parties considered themselves the only managers of public affairs. That’s why Ntaryamira also called for discipline in political parties.”

So he said: “We need to restore discipline in the country, discipline in the army, discipline in schools, discipline at job, discipline in political parties, discipline in the administration, discipline everywhere in Burundi.”

The question we must ask ourselves today is whether we are truly honoring Cyprien Ntaryamira’s legacy. Sylvestre Ntibantunganya states that Ntaryamira’s vision of discipline was focused “on public order and good governance. Ntaryamira was against the use of force to access power and emphasized the importance of discipline among those in power, which is synonymous with good governance. When there is good governance, every decision is made in consultation with the constitution, with no room for economic embezzlement or insubordination in administration.”

According to Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, Cyprien Ntaryamira’s concept of discipline involved upholding the law, respecting human rights, and prioritizing the common good over personal interests.

With prevalent issues of poverty, corruption, and governance that the current President of Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye, acknowledges still persist, it could be argued that we have not remained true to Ntaryamira’s legacy even after 29 years since his death.


Cyprien Ntaryamira, born March 6, 1955 in Mageyo zone, Mubimbi commune, Bujumbura province, Burundi,    and assassinated April 6, 1994 in Kigali, Rwanda, when the aircraft carrying him and Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down with surface-to-air missiles as their jet prepared to land in KigaliRwanda. The assassination set in motion the Rwandan genocide, one of the bloodiest events of the late 20th century.

Responsibility for the attack is disputed, with most theories proposing as suspects either the Tutsi rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) or government-aligned Hutu Power followers opposed to negotiation with the RPF.

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