21 army officers who were suspected to have been involved in the coup attempt in May 2015 have been given life sentences.
“Twenty-one officers including the main accused like General Cyrille Ndayirukiye were sentenced to life,” a judicial source said to AFP, speaking in the central city of Gitega.
In January, the court had given 30 years to some, five to others and acquitted some seven officers. However the sentences were appealed by the prosecutors and have resulted in a different turn for these officers, with some who were initially acquitted now facing life sentences.
Burundi’s crisis began when President Pierre Nkurunziza contested for a third term in office and won despite oppositions in April 2015.
In May, army general Godefroid Niyombare attempted to overthrow the government stating that “Nkurunziza is dismissed, his government is dismissed too,” on radio.
Pierre Nkurunziza was at the time in neighboring Tanzania for the 13th Extraordinary Summit of the East African Community Heads of State which was set up over the burgeoning crisis in Burundi.
Nkurunziza had attempted to return to Burundi to stop the coup but was unable to because the rebel soldiers had dominated the Bujumbura, Burundi’s Capital airport.
Prime Niyongabo, the head of the Burundian armed forces later announced on radio that the coup had been foiled. The president successfully returned to the country and arrested army general Godefroid Niyombare as well as two other military personnel believed to have been involved in the coup.
Burundi is currently facing its largest crisis since the end of its 12 year long ethnic war between the Hutus and Tutsis which ended in 2006. More than 40,000 Burundians have since fled the country to neighboring Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.