June 17, 2019

Burundi: President Sacks top Ministers.


By Derrick Kiplagat

Embattled Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has sacked his Defense and Foreign Affairs ministers. The President gave the two ministers their marching orders on Monday. This move by Nkurunziza comes just a few days after a failed coup attempt when the President was on an official trip in Tanzania. The President is facing constant rebellion from citizens, who are opposed to his bid to run for a third term in office.

Protestors opposed to his bid are gathering in parts of the country’s capital Bujumbura where there have engaged the police in running battles and riots to show their disapproval of his bid. The protestors holding anti-Nkurunzinza banners while singing and chanting are adamant despite police’s effort to control them, regrouping each time the police disperse them with tear gas.

“It was courageous to protest today after all the threats that demonstrators have received from the authorities… and the presence of many heavily armed soldiers, who have not stopped firing live rounds, but fortunately into the air and not at demonstrators,” said a protestor.

Meanwhile, President Nkurunziza has appointed Emmauel Ntahonvukiye as the new Defense Minister and Alain Aime Nyamitwe as Foreign Affairs Minister. Tension has since surfaced in the army and the government with fears of a possible reshuffle.

The last five days has seen soldiers fight against each other in the streets with those loyal to the government forming the pro-Nkurunziza faction and those against being labeled rebels and anti-government. This tension has seen many officers from the military, loyal to the president take charge of security in the streets from the police, in order to help curb any threats to security

President Nkurunziza has had a limited public appearane since his secret return to the country from Tanzania, after turning down an offer to seek assylum in South Africa. The President has also opted to remain silent on his push to run for a third term since coming back to the country.

At least 20 people have lost their lives in the street battles with the police, since the President first announced his desire to run for a third term. Before the coup, the army was seen as neutral towards the riots. They stood in the streets just to contain the riots not to get out of hand, as opposed to the police who confronted the protestors. On Sunday, it was reported that soldiers were firing live bullets over the heads of rioters with the aim of deterring them but only had the opposite effect.

Nkurunziza has however promised amnesty to General Niyombare and his loyals if they do surrender to authorities. The rebel leader has however sought asylum in an unknown location, and has not been heard from since last Wednesday when he announced on radio that he had overthrown Nkurunziza and his government.
On Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta asked the Burundi leader to postpone the election until the country had settled. Other regional leaders have also reiterated that the dates be pushed foward until the country was stable again.

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