In Burundi, a former prime minister sentenced to life imprisonment for wanting to overthrow the government

The former all-powerful Prime Minister of Burundi, Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, was sentenced, Friday, December 8, by the Supreme Court to a life sentence, notably for having wanted to overthrow the government and having threatened the life of the president

In Burundi, a former prime minister sentenced to life imprisonment for wanting to overthrow the government

The former all-powerful Prime Minister of Burundi, Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, was sentenced, Friday, December 8, by the Supreme Court to a life sentence, notably for having wanted to overthrow the government and having threatened the life of the president . General Bunyoni, who became prime minister in June 2020, was dismissed from office in September 2022, a few days after President Evariste Ndayishimiye denounced attempts at a “coup d’état”.

“The former prime minister is sentenced to life imprisonment for the seven crimes with which he was accused, including plotting against the head of state to overthrow the constitutional regime, an attempted assassination of the head of state in the aid of fetishes, contempt of the Head of State and the Prime Minister or even the attack on the internal security of the State,” a judicial source announced to Agence France-Presse, under the cover anonymity. He was also convicted of illegal enrichment and destabilization of the economy.

The Court ordered the confiscation of four houses and buildings belonging to him, as well as a plot of land and fourteen vehicles, according to the same source. The court followed the requisitions of the prosecution which had requested life imprisonment during the trial which was held before the Supreme Court of Burundi sitting in a room of the central prison of Gitega (in the center), the political capital of the country, where he is detained.

Mr. Bunyoni was arrested in April 2023 in the economic capital, Bujumbura, on the eve of his 51st birthday.

Considered the true number two of the regime

He was on trial alongside six co-defendants. Five of them, including police colonel Désiré Uwamahoro and a senior executive of the National Intelligence Service (SNR), Destino-Samuel Bapfumukeko, received sentences ranging from three to fifteen years in prison, according to the judicial source; the public prosecutor had asked for thirty years. The sixth co-defendant, a driver, was acquitted.

During the trial which opened in September, General Bunyoni pleaded not guilty to all charges and requested his outright acquittal, citing "a lack of evidence" to support the accusation.

Mr. Bunyoni had long been considered the regime's true number two and the leader of the hardliners among the generals working behind the scenes of power. He had previously been Minister of Public Security (2007-2011 then 2015-2020).

Evariste Ndayishimiye took over as head of Burundi in June 2020, after the sudden death of Pierre Nkurunziza. If the international community has welcomed a certain opening of the country since its arrival in power, a UN commission of inquiry affirmed in September 2021 that the situation concerning human rights remained “disastrous” in Burundi.