Burundi MPs eject prime minister in president purge over coup plot

Wednesday September 07 2022
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Burundi MPs vote in parliament on September 7, 2022. PHOTO | NMG


Burundi's parliament on Wednesday approved the appointment of a new prime minister after President Evariste Ndayishimiye warned last week of a possible coup plot against him.

The President sacked his prime minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni and his cabinet chief General Gabriel Nizigama on a day of high drama in the troubled 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 105-0 vote.

Mr Bunyoni is a former police chief and had been in office as prime minister for two years. He had also served as Minister for Internal Security during president Nkurunziza's regime.

“The President of the Republic proposed Gervais Ndirakobuca to be the prime minister, and the president has the mandate to choose who he wants to work with,” said Gelase Ndabirabe, the Speaker of Parliament, before lawmakers approved the new prime minister.

Coup plot


Mr Bunyoni's departure came after President Ndayishimiye, who has been in power for just over two years, had 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,” President Ndayishimiye had warned at a meeting of government officials on Friday.

There has been speculation of a possible feud between the Prime Minister and the President due to a power struggle.

Read: Rumours of a coup bedevil Burundi

The fate of Bunyoni, a senior figure in the CNDD-FDD party, the former rebel group that has ruled the 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.

Mr Ndayishimiye took power in the troubled nation in June 2020 after his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza died of what the 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.

Read: Burundi’s president in Brussels for EU-AU Summit

New PM Ndirakobuca was sanctioned in 2015 by the US 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.

- Additional reporting by The EastAfrican

*Story updated