Former Burundi Prime Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni arrested

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Alain Guillaume Bunyoni was arrested in Burundi's capital Bujumbura on Friday [File: Tchandrou Nitanga/AFP]

Authorities have arrested Alain Guillaume Bunyoni seven months after his sacking in a high-level political purge, top security source says.

Burundi’s former Prime Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni has been arrested, the country’s justice ministry has said.

Bunyoni was prime minister from June 2020 to September 2022, when he was sacked after the president accused unnamed people of planning a coup against him.

“Alain Guillaume Bunyoni is currently in the hands of the police,” said a statement on Sunday signed by General Prosecutor Sylvestre Nyandwi and shared by the justice ministry.

Bunyoni was arrested in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura on Friday, Nyandwi said.

The statement did not specify where he was being held or the charges he would be facing.

The country’s human rights commission tweeted that representatives had visited Bunyoni in detention and said he had not faced any abuse.

Bunyoni was considered the number two in the country’s ruling party and was a close ally of former President Pierre Nkurunziza, who died in office in 2020.

He has been under United States sanctions since 2015 over his alleged role in violating human rights during violence sparked by Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in office.

Bunyoni served as security minister during the unrest in 2015.

Burundi’s National Independent Commission on Human Rights (CNIDH) said it had visited Bunyoni on Saturday, adding that he “has not suffered any act of torture or any other abuse since his arrest”.

Interior Minister Martin Niteretse told a press conference on Wednesday that authorities were looking for Bunyoni.

The former prime minister “was arrested very quickly by the national intelligence service”, a high-ranking security source told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

Although the international community has noted a relative opening up of the country since President Evariste Ndayishimiye took office in 2020 following the sudden death of Nkurunziza, a United Nations rights committee in September 2021 dubbed Burundi’s rights situation “disastrous”.

Nkurunziza’s chaotic and bloody rule saw Burundi largely isolated, and the country of 12 million people remains one of the world’s poorest.

In 2015, Nkurunziza oversaw a crackdown on political opponents amid turmoil after he launched a bid for a third term in office, in violation of a peace deal that ended a bloody civil war in 2006.

Some 300,000 people were killed in 13 years of ethnic fighting while around 400,000 people fled abroad amid reports of arbitrary arrests, torture, killings and enforced disappearances.

The country became an international pariah as a result of these developments, with donors cutting aid and the US and European Union placing sanctions on some officials.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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