A former all-powerful prime minister of Burundi, Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, appeared in court on Thursday (sept 28th), accused of undermining national security and insulting the president, a judicial source and witnesses reported.
Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, who had been Prime Minister since June 2020, was dismissed in September 2022, a few days after President Evariste Ndayishimiye had denounced hints of a "coup d'état". He was replaced by Interior Minister Gervais Ndirakobuca.
Mr. Bunyoni had long been regarded as the regime's real number two and the leader of the hardliners among the generals working behind the scenes.
He was arrested last April in the economic capital Bujumbura, on the eve of his 51st birthday, and has since been held in the political capital Gitega.
The trial began before the Supreme Court, with the hearing held in prison.
"General Bunyoni appeared with his six co-defendants in a specially equipped room at Gitega central prison this morning from 11am to 1pm, in front of around 50 people, including one of his daughters," a judicial source who requested anonymity told AFP.
Witnesses told AFP that he was dressed at the hearing in the green uniform typical of prisoners in Burundi. According to the judicial source, he denounced the "terrible conditions" of his detention.
He is allowed only 30 minutes of "exposure" to the sun, according to his account. "I suffer from severe type B diabetes. If something were to happen to me, I wouldn't be able to get out because it requires the presence of two managers to open the 3 doors that lead to my cell", said General Bunyoni, asking to be released on bail.
The court is due to rule on this request within 48 hours.
He is accused of "undermining the internal security of the state, undermining the smooth running of the national economy, and personal enrichment". He is also accused of illegal possession of weapons and insulting the President.
A close ally of former president Pierre Nkurunziza, Mr. Bunyoni was an influential figure in the ruling CNDD-FDD party.
While the international community has welcomed a certain opening-up of the country since Evariste Ndayishimiye came to power in June 2020 following the sudden death of Pierre Nkurunziza, a UN commission of inquiry stated in September 2021 that the human rights situation in Burundi remained "disastrous".
Landlocked in the Great Lakes region, Burundi is the world's poorest country in terms of GDP per capita, according to the World Bank.