Hutu and Tutsi military officers in the Burundi army have been arrested for attempting to overthrow the government. The army chief of staff, Major Gen Godefroid Niyombare said the soldiers were planning to oust President Pierre Nkurunziza- a former rebel leader elected under a deal that ended the years of conflict between the Tutsi army and Hutu rebels in Burundi.
The soldiers were caught in a meeting near Lake Tanganyika earlier on Friday, where reporters say they had been planning the coup.
The authorities are investigating and more arrests are expected. This event precedes the forthcoming elections in June- which would be the second poll ever to be held in the country, since the end of the deadly 12-year, ethnic-based civil war.
Burundi’s army absorbed more than 2,000 former rebels, Tutsis and Hutus, after a peace deal in 2005, and despite the progress made in the direction of democracy, some analysts say the June elections could be disturbed by some disgruntled factions of the unified army of Hutus and Tutsis.
The approaching election would also be contested for by former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa. He has been chosen by his party as its candidate for the country’s 2010 presidential election. Agathon Rwasa vowed to rule for all Burundians, if elected.
Burundi, after its independence in 1961, has been plagued by tension between the dominant Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority, and it has become one of the world’s poorest nations.
The unification of Hutu and Tutsi soldiers to plot a coup distorts the expectations of outside observers, who are only aware of the years of political tensions between Hutus and Tutsis in that region.
According to a BBC documented historical profile on Burundi, In 1993 when Burundians chose their first Hutu head of state, Melchior Ndadaye, and a parliament dominated by the Hutu Front for Democracy in Burundi (Frodebu) party, he was assassinated within months.
This led to years of Hutu-Tutsi violence in which an estimated 300,000 people, most of them civilians, were killed. In early 1994 parliament elected another Hutu, Cyprien Ntaryamira, as president. But he was killed in April alongside the president of neighboring Rwanda when the plane they were traveling in was shot down over Kigali.
This of course led to the Rwanda genocide that claimed the lives of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.
In Burundi, another Hutu, Sylvestre Ntibantunganya, was appointed president in October 1994. But within months, the mainly Tutsi Union for National Progress (Uprona) party withdrew from the government and parliament, sparking a new wave of ethnic violence.
However, there have been relative peace, after a 12-year ethnic-based civil war due partly to international mediation and support. Nonetheless the peace has been recently altered with the report of an alleged underground coup by Tutsi and Hutu soldiers .