Burundi arrests military officers in coup attempt

Burundi authorities arrested several military generals May 15 after an unsuccessful coup attempt and said the suspects will face a military court for mutiny charges. Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare [who fought alongside Hutu rebels in the 1993-2005 civil war] announced the coup on May 13. President Pierre Nkurunziza was in Tanzania at the time the coup was announced but is believed to be back in his country. In Bujumbura, troops supporting the president and those supporting Niyombare fought on the streets for two days after the declared coup. Following the announcement, the airport in Bujumbura and the land borders were closed, but the streets reportedly calmed by May 15.

Unrest in Burundi intensified after the Constitutional Court ruled earlier this month that he could seek a third term without violating the country's constitution. Burundi authorities arrested political opposition leader Audifax Ndabitoreye in May shortly after he met with East African Community ministers in the capital city of Bujumbura. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)expressed concern over actions by Burundian authorities. The OHCHR said last month that the upcoming elections in Burundi place the nation at a critical moment in history.

Burundi has been criticized for human rights violations and limitations on freedom in the last few years. In February Human Rights Watch said that Burundian National Defense Forces and police committed at least 47 extrajudicial executions following confrontation with an armed group in Cibitoke. HRW also said that armed members of the Burundian youth force, known as the Imbonerakure, participated in the executions. Earlier that month, the OHCHR expressed concerns about freedom of expression in Burundi following the arrest of Bob Rugurika, director of Radio Public Africaine.

From Jurist, May 15. Used with permission.

  1. Burundi crisis triggers mass exodus

    At least 50,000 refugees are living on the shore of Lake Tangyanika in rough conditions after fleeing the political crisis in Burundi, the Tanzanian government has said. More than 105,000 Burundians have fled the country, with 70,000 crossing into Tanzania alone, since the political crisis began in Burundi. Around 26,300 Burundians have entered Rwanda, most of whom are now living in the Mahama refugee camp. (Al Jazeera)

  2. Shabaab in Burundi?

    Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza, appearing in public in the capital Bujumbura for the first time since the failed coup, made no mention of the coup attempt but said the country faces a threat from the Somali Islamist movement al-Shabab. A spokesman for al-Shabab called his remarks "dumbfounding." (BBC News)