Ex-army officer mobilises new force against Burundi leader

Former senior Burundi military officer mobilises new force to oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza as he continues third term in office and causes deadly chaos within country

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A masked protester participates in a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza in Bujumbura

Updated Dec 24, 2015

A former senior military officer in Burundi Edouard Nshimirimana said on Wednesday that he has set up a new force to oppose President Pierre Nkurunziza, whose extended third term in office has caused deadly chaos in the country.

In his statement, Nshimirimana announced Force Republicaine du Burundi (FOREBU) as the new force, which will be President Nkurunziza’s latest challenge following the failed army coup by a group of generals in May.

Nshimirimana was a top communications officer in the army, but he fled in September.

"Since Pierre Nkurunziza took power 10-years-ago, the country and Burundians are coldly and outrageously taken hostage by a bloody dictatorship embodied by an irresponsible president and a politically futureless system," Nshimirimana said in an audio statement.

However, the statement has not confirmed the size of the force or whether the new group will cooperate with other rebels.  

According to media sources, there’s a high risk of a civil war breaking out and the unity of the army -which was rebuilt following the 12-year civil war that ended in 2005- is on alarm

Despite the international efforts for political dialogue have failed, regional mediator Uganda will host peace talks between the government and opposition groups on December 28.

Nshimirimana said that the president's third term violated the deal that ended the 12-year civil war, which brought peace to the country, following peace talks between the rebel groups of the Hutu ethnic majority, including one led by Nkurunziza and the army force, dominated by the Tutsi minority.

Nshimirimana said that the army’s post-war reform was "a successful integration," but Nkurunziza’s actions "profoundly divided" it.

"Having caused the loss of army honour, Pierre Nkurunziza is not worthy of being called supreme commander," he said.

Burundi has been in a cycle of deadly violence since President Pierre Nkurunziza’s victory in a disputed election following his decision to seek a third term despite a constitutional two-term limit.

Protests erupted accross Burundi against Nkurunziza’s third-term bid and his disputed election victory last July.

At least 400 people have been killed and almost 3,500 have been arrested in Burundi, according to the United Nations including Burundian opposition figures and supporters - as well as a former army chief and a former intelligence chief - under a government crackdown.

According to the latest UN figures more than 239,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, fearing a possible genocide. Up to 55 percent of the refugees are under the age of 18.

There was a civil war in Burundi from 1993 to 2005 and approximately 300,000 people died in the conflict between rebels from the country's majority Hutu population and an army dominated by the Tutsi minority.


Reuters, TRTWorld and agencies