Having begun her career in the banking sector and rising to advising the then Prime Minister of Burundi, Sylvie Kanigi is the only woman to have held the positions of Prime Minister and President. She navigated the volatile ethnic terrain between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes, ensuring that a government functions amidst the civil war. Kinigi, was tasked with the sensitive task of reconciliation in an administration and state that was marred with ethnic conflict that bordered on genocide.
As an economist, it was her belief that addressing this ill could lead to a consented effort of national building that would translate to economic development for the state. One may note that her power was publicly displayed when she addressed the nation during the 1993 war promising “severe punishment” to perpetrators of the coup and also vowing to institute a commission of enquiry that would bring the culprits to justice. This show of force gained her the support of army generals who threw their weight behind her, thereby bringing a semblance of leadership in an embattled country.
Kinigi portrayed calm and leadership at a time when the nation needed immediate guidance. She put herself at the fore in trying to build up Burundi and ultimately resigned her political office to join the United Nations.