Burundi: Years of political crisis

AFP , Wednesday 7 Sep 2022

The troubled central African country of Burundi was plunged into fresh turmoil on Wednesday when President Evariste Ndayishimiye replaced his prime minister after warning of a "coup" plot.

Burundi President
File photo showing Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye. AP


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

Security minister Gervais Ndirakobuca was sworn in before parliament as new premier, capping a day of high drama in the troubled central African nation.

He succeeds Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, who was sacked along with Ndayishimiye's civilian chief of staff General Gabriel Nizigama in the first major reshuffle at the top since the president took office a little over two years ago.

The crisis marks a new setback for the Great Lakes nation, which had just begun to recover from a severe crackdown launched by ex-president Pierre Nkurunziza against regime opponents in 2015 that turned Burundi into a pariah state.

Here is a timeline of events since then:

In April 2015, thousands of people take to the streets in protest after Nkurunziza, who has been in power for a decade, is declared candidate for a third term by his ruling CNDD-FDD party.

Police brutally quash the protests which continue for six weeks. At least 1,200 people are killed.

The opposition says the move to keep Nkurunziza in power is unconstitutional and violates a peace deal that ended a civil war between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in 2006.

Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, says his first term, which began before the peace deal, does not count as he was elected by parliament, not the people.

In May 2015, a coup attempt led by a former army chief fails.

A long list of opposition leaders, journalists, members of civil society and disillusioned ruling party members go into exile.

In July, Nkurunziza is re-elected but a month later, his right-hand man, General Adolphe Nshimirimana, is killed in a rocket strike.

In December, at least 87 people are killed in coordinated attacks on military sites that trigger fierce reprisals from the security forces.

In April 2016, Tutsi general Athanase Kararuza and his wife are killed.

In July 2016, the United Nations Security Council authorises the deployment of 228 UN police to Burundi but Nkurunziza rejects the resolution.

A UN probe two months later warns of the risk of "genocide".

The following month Burundi announces it will leave the International Criminal Court, which had launched an inquiry into the deadly election chaos.

In a January 2017 report, Human Rights Watch accuses members of the ruling party's youth wing, the Imbonerakure, of having killed, tortured and beaten dozens of people.

In May 2018, Burundian voters approve constitutional reforms that would enable Nkurunziza to rule until 2034.

But in a surprise announcement, Nkurunziza says the following month that he will not stand in in the next election, due in 2020.

The ruling party's candidate, former army general Evariste Ndayishimiye wins May 2020 elections. His main opponent Agathon Rwasa dismisses the result as a sham.

On June 8, 2020, Nkurunziza dies aged 55 of heart failure, according to the presidency.

Later that month, former security minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni is named prime minister and in January 2021, another regime hardliner, Reverien Ndikuriyo, is elected head of the CNDD-FDD.

In September 2021, the rebel group RED-Tabara claims a mortar attack on the main airport of Burundi's largest city Bujumbura.

In October, the UN reports that despite promises by Ndayishimiye to improve the situation, "serious human rights violations continue to be committed".

A month later, the United States nonetheless lifts sanctions on Burundi citing "significantly decreased violence".

The EU follows suit in February 2022 and both Brussels and Washington resume aid to Burundi.

In May 2022, Ndayishimiye says he is ready to engage in dialogue with RED-Tabara and the National Forces of Liberation rebel groups.

On September 7, he sacks his prime minister after warning of a coup plot, and replaces him with interior minister Gervais Ndirakobuca. He also sacks his chief of staff.

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