The African Union’s special envoy for troubled Mali, Pierre Buyoya, resigned the post on Tuesday, he and other top officials of the pan-African body told AFP.
Buyoya, who was convicted in absentia in his native Burundi last month for the 1993 assassination of his successor Melchior Ndadaye, did not give a reason for the decision.
He rejected the verdict, which came with a life sentence, on October 21, saying the case was politically motivated and vowing to appeal the ruling.
A high-ranking AU official who requested anonymity told AFP that Buyoya quit because he wants “to devote all his time and energy to his defence and wants to spare the AU from a situation that has become embarrassing.”
Another AU leader, who also asked not to be named, said Buyoya’s resignation was accepted “with recognition for the excellent work performed in Mali in the name of the AU.”
The AU has made no official comment on the verdict against Buyoya and 18 military officials and associates that was handed down in the Burundi capital Bujumbura on October 20.
Buyoya, an ethnic Tutsi, first came to power in Burundi in a coup in 1987.
He stepped down in 1993 in the former Belgian colony’s first democratic elections in which Ndadaye, a Hutu, beat him resoundingly.
But hardline ethnic Tutsi soldiers killed Ndadaye just four months into the job.
His murder plunged the East African nation into years of civil war between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis that left an estimated 300,000 people dead by the time it ended in 2006.