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From Jail in Burundi to Hoping to Make History as Greece’s First Black Lawmaker: Story of Spiros Hagabimana

| How Africa News

Spiros Richard Hagabimana was imprisoned in his native Burundi eight years ago for refusing to use lethal force on anti-government protesters while working as a senior officer in the National Police. He was freed with the aid of Greek officials, and he is now running in the May 21 election to become Greece’s first Black MP.

According to commentators, Hagabimana’s victory in the conservative New Democracy party’s race for the Piraeus II electoral district in the south-east would be historic because Greece rarely accepts immigrants into its government.

“Piraeus is the place where I studied, learned my first Greek words, worked and live. Through this area, I learned to love Greece,” said one of his poll posters on Twitter.

Hagabimana, 54, who is currently a senior employee in the ministry of migration, first came to Greece in 1991 on a scholarship to attend the Naval Academy, according to Reuters. He had to apply for refuge in Greece after receiving his diploma in 1996 because Burundi, where he was from, was experiencing a military takeover at the time.

Hagabimana continued his legal studies and joined the New Democracy party’s youth branch. The Burundi civil war had finished by 2005, the year he was granted Greek citizenship, and he made the decision to return home to help with UN peacekeeping operations.

Hagabimana was a member of the National Police when protests over a third presidential term broke out in Burundi ten years after his return. He was told by his superiors to use force against the demonstrators, but he refused, leading to his imprisonment. He told Reuters that he had been beaten and thought a blow to the head would have killed him.

He received assistance from Greek authorities and returned to Athens in 2016 as a result of an international campaign for Hagabimana’s release launched by an Athens-based lawyer friend.

Now seeking to become Greece’s first Black member of parliament, Hagabimana said he hopes his story will inspire migrants that “they can be equal members of society.”

“Everything I achieved, they can do more,” the Burundi-born ex-police officer stressed.

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