One Year of Failed Burundi Coup, Leader Niyombare at Large as Generals face 30 year Jail term

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Burundi has marked its first anniversary of the failed coup led last year by General Godefroid Nyombare who still remains at large.

On 13 May 2015, army general Godefroid Niyombare said that he was “dismissing President Pierre Nkurunziza” following the 2015 Burundian unrest. However, the presidency tweeted that the “situation is under control” and there is “no coup”.

Nkurunziza was at the time in neighbouring Tanzania attending the 13th Extraordinary Summit of the East African Community Heads of State, which had been convened to discuss the situation in Burundi.

Nkurunziza quickly attempted to return to Burundi, but he was apparently unable to do so because rebel soldiers had taken control of the airport in Bujumbura.

Nevertheless, the head of the armed forces, Prime Niyongabo, said on state radio during the night of 13–14 May that the coup attempt had been defeated, and he called on rebel soldiers to surrender. Loyalist forces remained in control of the state radio and presidential palace.

Following the attempted coup, security forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza crushed the rebellion and made several arrests among them three ex-army generals – former defence minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye, Zenon Ndabaneze and Juvenal Niyungeko – and one police general, Hermenegilde Nimenya.

The four ex-generals were sentenced to life in prison for the failed coup, with nine others jailed for 30 years for their role in the unrest in the troubled central African country.

More than 450 people have been killed in Burundi since Nkurunziza announced his candidacy in April 2015 for a third term which he subsequently won.

Despite his re-election last July, rights activists have accused Nkurunziza of violating the Constitution and the Arusha agreement that ended the civil war between 1993 and 2006.

But Nkurunziza’s camp said a court ruling had declared the former rebel-turned-president eligible to seek another term.

Efforts to end fighting have not borne fruit despite repeated calls by the United Nations, the African Union and regional neighbours raising fears of a return to ethnically charged violence of civil war.