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Burundi

President avoids a power struggle, for now

After a coup threat, Ndayishimiye wins parliament's backing to sack prime minister and cabinet chief

A deepening political crisis has been averted for now after President Evariste Ndayishimiye sacked his prime minister Alain Bunyoni and his cabinet chief General Gabriel Nizigama last week having been warned of a coup plot against him.

At an emergency parliamentary session on 6 September, the house voted unanimously to impeach Bunyoni. Interior minister Gervais Ndirakobuca, a former lieutenant-general, replaces him, while Martin Niteretse becomes interior minister.

Fifty-four police provincial commissioners have also been sacked or redeployed, with Ndayishimiye commenting that there were some government officials 'who think they are untouchable'.

Bunyoni and the President had been at loggerheads in recent months. Ndayishimiye had cracked down on some of Bunyoni's extensive business activities as part of his anti-corruption campaign.

Officials in Bujumbura say that the purge is an attempt by Ndayishimiye to force out of government and the security forces supporters of his late predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza from government. But new interior minister Ndirakobuca also has hardline securocrat credentials: he was sanctioned in 2015 by the United States for 'silencing those opposed' to Nkurunziza's third term bid (AC Vol 56 No 17, Hardliners to the fore).

Among other changes, Col Sindayihebura Aloys was appointed by presidential decree as Chief of the Civil Cabinet, replacing Gen Gabriel Nizigama, also a Nkurunziza appointee.

Since taking office in 2020 following Nkurunziza's death, Ndayishimiye has tried to balance the need to improve the country's image and obtain the lifting of aid restrictions by the European Union and the US with tackling corruption and cutting the power of the securocrats who dominated the Nkurunziza regime(AC Vol 61 No 13, Life without the 'Supreme Guide').

Bunyoni was a police chief and interior minister with close ties to the military under Nkurunziza. Security sources in Bujumbura believe that he could seek exile in Tanzania to avoid any criminal charges against him.

But Bunyoni's sacking is unlikely to end Ndayishimiye's battle with senior securocrats whose control over the economy and government remains strong.



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