Burundi president names new PM after coup plot claims

Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye replaced his prime minister and a top aide in a high-level reshuffle on Wednesday after warning of a “coup” plot against him.

Security Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca was sworn in before Parliament as the new premier of the Central African nation.

He succeeds Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, who was sacked along with President Ndayishimiye’s civilian Chief of Staff General Gabriel Nizigama in the first major reshuffle since the president took office a little more than two years ago.

Lawmakers approved the appointment of Ndirakobuca – a former chief of Burundi’s feared intelligence agency – in a unanimous 113-0 vote at a hastily called parliamentary session earlier on Wednesday.

President Ndayishimiye, a 54-year-old former army general, gave no reasons for Bunyoni’s dismissal, but last week he had warned of a coup plot against his government.

“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 said at a meeting of government officials in the political capital, Gitega.

The fate of Bunyoni, a former police chief and security minister who has long been a senior figure in the governing CNDD-FDD party, was not immediately known.

Ndirakobuca, a 52-year-old father of eight, is among a number of Burundian officials accused of stoking violence against government opponents in a wave of deadly unrest in 2015. He remains under European Union sanctions.

President Ndayishimiye’s new chief of staff – a post sometimes described as a “super prime minister” – is Colonel Aloys Sindayihebura, who was in charge of the domestic branch of the National Intelligence Service.

Legislators had been called to attend the National Assembly session on Wednesday via urgent messages sent overnight on WhatsApp

Analysts say a cabal of military leaders known as “the generals” wield the true political power in Burundi. President Ndayishimiye took power in June 2020 after his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza died of what the Burundian authorities said was heart failure, although there was widespread speculation he had succumbed to COVID-19.

He has been hailed by the international community for slowly ending years of Burundi’s isolationism under Nkurunziza’s bloody rule. -Aljazeera

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