Key ministers dismissed in Burundi

Burundi’s president Nkurunziza dismisses defence and foreign ministers following failed coup attempt

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Burundi's defense and foreign ministers were dismissed by President Nkurunziza on Monday following a failed coup attempt days before, as hundreds of protesters continue demonstrations and anti-government street marches despite warnings, AP has reported.

Nkurunziza selected Emmanuel Ntahonvukiye - a civilian - as his new defense minister, and Alain Aime Nyamitwe as foreign minister, and also replaced the trade minister.

Singing songs and blowing whistles, demonstrators gathered in several parts of the capital Bujumbra to protest current president Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in power. 

"It was courageous to protest today after all the threats that demonstrators 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 Pacifique Nininahazwe, a protest leader.

After witnessing soldiers battling each other, a top general attempted a coup five days ago.

According to the AP, one soldier shouted at protesters to "leave the streets," warning that they were not just going to open water cannon, but guns. "We are firing water, we are firing bullets," he shouted.

Soldiers used to stand between protesters and police to reduce the volume of violence prior to the coup attempt, as the army was seen by many protesters as being more neutral than the police and some soldiers were unhappy at the force's role.

"We are not there to shoot people," one said.

At least 20 people died in the protests before the coup attempt and many were injured. 

Bujumbura mayor Juma Saidi, speaking on state television on Sunday, warned that "demonstrators will be considered as part of the coup, and security forces have been ordered to treat them as such."

The east African nation has been hit by protests in opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza's candidacy of re-election for a third term, while Burundi's constitution stipulates that a president can only serve for two terms.

The constitution limits the presidency to two terms in office, but Nkurunziza's supporters say he can run again because his first term was picked by lawmakers and not by elections.

Despite the demonstrations against his third term bid, Burundi's Constitutional Court approved the candidacy of President Pierre Nkurunziza last Tuesday.

US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke expressed concern over the situation on Monday, saying "peaceful protesters should not be equated with people who participated in an attempted seizure of power."

Concerning the rising violence in the past month in Burundi, US envoy Samantha Power said “the government of Burundi has a window of opportunity to bring the violence to a halt,” stating that “the international community is urging President Pierre Nkurunziza to put his people ahead of his personal desire to seek re-election.”

More than 100,000 people have fled to neighboring nations since the political violence that culminated in last week's foiled coup attempt erupted in April, according to the UN.

TRTWorld and agencies