The authorities in Burundi are searching for former prime minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, seven months after he was dismissed in a high-level political purge. However, the reasons behind the search have not yet been clarified.
Once the country's police chief and security minister, Bunyoni was fired last September in the first major reshuffle at the top of Burundi's government since President Evariste Ndayishimiye took office in 2020.
Police and intelligence officers reportedly searched three properties belonging to Bunyoni on Monday, but found no trace of him, according to local security and media reports.
Interior Minister Martin Niteretse told a press conference on Wednesday that the search was continuing, adding he did not know the reasons behind the operation.
'Warned in advance'
According to a senior Burundian military official – speaking to the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity – the former prime minister "had been warned in advance that the noose was going to tighten on him, and he disappeared into the wild before the arrival of the police."
The official said the authorities had arrested a senior police officer for allegedly warning Bunyoni about the search operations.
Niteretse told reporters a police colonel had been taken into custody, but did not elaborate on the reasons for the arrest.
An influential senior figure in the ruling CNDD-FDD party who was appointed prime minister in 2020, Bunyoni was fired just days after Ndayishimiye warned of a "coup plot" against him.
Bunyoni was seen as the leader of the "hardliners" among the generals who wield true political power in Burundi, with Ndayishimiye himself alluding to his isolation in a 2021 speech.
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The legacy of brutality
Ndayishimiye took power in June 2020 after his predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza died of what the Burundian authorities said was heart failure. According to widespread speculation he succumbed to Covid-19.
Ndayishimiye has been hailed by the international community for ending years of isolationism under Nkurunziza's chaotic and bloody rule.
However, he has failed to improve the country's record on human rights.