Spiros Hagabimana: from jail in Burundi to hoping to make history as Greece’s first Black lawmaker

Spiros Richard Hagabimana/Twitter

Eight years ago, Spiros Richard Hagabimana was jailed in his home country Burundi for refusing to open fire on anti-government demonstrators while serving as a senior officer in the National Police. With the help of authorities in Greece, he was released, and today, he is seeking to become Greece’s first Black lawmaker in the May 21 election.

Hagabimana is contesting in the south-eastern Piraeus II electoral district under the conservative New Democracy party and analysts say that his victory would be historic since Greece hardly allows migrants to hold official posts.

“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.

54-year-old Hagabimana, who is currently a senior migration ministry official, first arrived in Greece in 1991 on a scholarship to study at the Naval Academy, Reuters reports. After graduating in 1996, he had to seek asylum in Greece as his home country Burundi was then in the midst of a military coup.

Hagabimana went ahead to study law and became a member of the youth wing of the New Democracy party. By 2005 when he received Greek citizenship, the civil war in Burundi had ended so he decided to go back to his country to assist with peacekeeping efforts with the UN.

Ten years after his return to Burundi, protests against a third presidential term erupted there while Hagabimana was a National Police officer. His superiors ordered him to use force against the protesters but he refused and was jailed as a result. He was beaten and believes that he would have died if he had been hit on the head, he told Reuters.

Thanks to a lawyer friend in Athens who started an international campaign to get Hagabimana released, he got support from Greek authorities and went back to Athens in 2016.

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.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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