Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye launches purge after warning of coup plot

Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye

Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Photo credit: AFP

Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye sacked his prime minister and a top aide in a high-level purge Wednesday after warning of a "coup" plot against him.

He sacked his prime minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni and his cabinet chief General Gabriel Nizigama on a day of high drama in the troubled central African country.

At a hastily called parliamentary session, lawmakers approved the appointment of security minister Gervais Ndirakobuca to replace Bunyoni as prime minister in a unanimous 113-0 vote, the national broadcaster RTNB said.

Bunyoni's departure came after Ndayishimiye, who has been in power for just over two years, last week warned of a coup plot against him.

"Do you think an army general can be threatened by saying they will make a coup? Who is that person? Whoever it is should come and, in the name of God, I will defeat him," Ndayishimiye had warned at a meeting of government officials on Friday.

The fate of Bunyoni, a senior figure in the CNDD-FDD party, the former rebel group that has ruled the impoverished country for years, was not immediately known.

Nizigama was replaced by Colonel Aloys Sindayihebura, who until now has been in charge of domestic intelligence within the National Intelligence Service.

Ndayishimiye took power in June 2020 after his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza died of what the Burundian authorities said was heart failure.

His election in May 2020 had offered promise after the chaotic and bloody rule of his predecessor, although the country has failed to improve its dire record on human rights.

Political opponents

Nkurunziza had launched a crackdown on political opponents in 2015 that left 1,200 people dead and made Burundi a global pariah.

The turmoil erupted after Nkurunziza launched a bid for a third term in office, despite concerns over the legality of such a move.

The United States and the European Union had imposed sanctions over the unrest that also sent 400,000 people fleeing the country, with reports of arbitrary arrests, torture, killings and enforced disappearances.

Earlier this year, both resumed aid flows to the landlocked nation of 12 million people after easing the 2015 sanctions.

Civil society groups have returned, the BBC is allowed to broadcast again and the EU -- Burundi's largest foreign donor -- has commended efforts to fight corruption.

Ndirakobuca, the newly appointed premier, was among those sanctioned in 2015 by the United States for "silencing those opposed" to Nkurunziza's third term bid.

Burundi's history is littered with presidential assassinations, coups, ethnic massacres and a long civil war that ended in 2006 and left some 300,000 dead.


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