Burundi president sacks PM after warning of coup plot
Rumors of a coup bedevil Burundi, leading him to sack the PM and a top aide.
Burundi's President Evariste Ndayishimiye dismissed on Wednesday the country's prime minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni and a top aide after receiving warning of a "coup" plot against him.
The former army general replaced the PM, whose fate was not immediately known, and civilian chief of staff General Gabriel Nizigama on the high-drama day in the troubled central African country.
Legislators, who had been called via urgent messages sent overnight on WhatsApp to attend the National Assembly session on Wednesday, approved appointing security minister Gervais Ndirakobuca to replace Bunyoni in a unanimous 113-0 vote, the national broadcaster RTNB said.
The President gave no reasons for Bunyoni's dismissal, but warned last Friday at a meeting of government officials of a coup plot, asking, "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."
Colonel Aloys Sindayihebura has been appointed as the new chief of staff; he was in charge of domestic intelligence within the National Intelligence Service.
Analysts say a group of military leaders known as "the generals" hold the true political power in Burundi, and Ndayishimiye himself alluded to his isolation in a speech last year.
Ndayishimiye, 54, came to power in June 2020 after Pierre Nkurunziza, his predecessor, died of what the Burundian authorities said was heart failure.
Nkurunziza launched a brutal crackdown on political opponents in 2015, leaving 1,200 people dead and making Burundi a global pariah.
The turmoil erupted after he had launched a bid for a third term in office, which the opposition considered unconstitutional and violating a peace agreement that ended Burundi's 2006 bloody civil war.
Sanctions were imposed by the United States and the European Union over the unrest that also drove 400,000 people to leave the country, with reports of torture, killings, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearances.
Among those the US sanctioned in 2015 for "silencing those opposed" to Nkurunziza's third term bid was Ndirakobuca.
Burundi has been greatly affected by an economic crisis since the unrest, with shortages of basic goods such as fuel, building materials, medicines, and certain foodstuffs, in addition to a lack of foreign exchange.
In February, Belgium and the US resumed aid flows after easing the 2015 sanctions, citing political progress under Ndayishimiye.
'Civil society groups' returned, the BBC was allowed to broadcast again and the European Union, Burundi's largest foreign donor, applauded efforts to fight corruption.
Nonetheless, concerns over rights abuses remain. In May, Human Rights Watch described politically motivated crimes and kidnappings by police and youth groups backed by the state, while a UN inquiry characterized the situation as "disastrous" last year.
Since the country's independence in 1962, its history has been rocked by a string of presidential assassinations, ethnic massacres, and coups. It was gripped by the brutal civil war between 1993 and 2006 between the majority. Hutus and minority Tutsis left some 300,000 people dead, the majority of which were civilians.