By Shannon Ebrahim
Johannesburg – The assassination Sunday morning of the man considered by Burundians as the country’s number two, has left Burundi sitting on a powder keg, very reminiscent of the triggers that set off cycles of ethnic cleansing in its recent past.
The assassination Sunday morning of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s closest aide Lt General Adolphe Nshimirimana has rocked the Central African country, already teetering on the verge of outright ethnic conflict.
The Communications Chief of Burundi’s Presidency has confirmed that Nshimirimana was killed in his car by a rocket in the capital Bujumbura.
The assassination has fanned inflammatory rhetoric by Nkurunziza’s supporters, and calls for revenge.
Tweets posted online claim that extremists have already started mobilising for retaliation.
The assassination comes over a week after Burundi’s controversial elections which were widely condemned by the international community and the Burundian opposition, who largely boycotted the poll on 21 July.
The significance of Nshimirimana’s assassination cannot be underplayed given his significant role in the country and his close relationship with the President.
Not only was he the former Army Chief of Staff and Intelligence Chief, but as Lt General he has been Nkurunziza’s closest confidante.
It is alleged that Nshimirimana was the mastermind behind the crackdown on opposition protestors in the country in recent months, as well as the power that foiled the attempted coup against the President.
“The suppression of the coup was largely attributed to General Nshimirimana as the counteroffensive was launched from his area,” Burundi expert Welile Nhlapo has told Independent Media, “he was deeply popular in Burundi particularly among the youth, and was a trusted confidante of the President.”
The demise of the man who was considered a hero among Burundi’s youth does not bode well for social cohesion, and could spell the beginning of a another dangerous cycle of violence which would unravel the gains made after years of peace building in the country.