At last week’s fifth inter-parliamentary relations seminar for the East African Legislative Assembly in Arusha, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi promised that upcoming national elections will be free and fair. He then went home and arrested a lot of people who were purportedly plotting a coup. According to the AFP:
Thirteen soldiers, including a captain and a lieutenant, were arrested on Friday on a popular beach on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in a highly-publicised swoop by dozens of troops filmed by state television.
The senior officer said the plan was to launch a mutiny in army bases across the country, take commanders hostage and demand direct negotiations with President Pierre Nkurunziza.
While there is unquestionable dissatisfaction among soldiers in the Burundias army, this event seems more like a staged performance of voter intimidation than a threat to national security.
Most coup plotting does not happen on ‘popular beaches’ where most diplomats and politicians spend their days holding meetings and eating fish. Rather, shows of government power occur on these beaches. Moreover, if coup planning was serious enough to require foiling, it would have been done secretly rather than Fox Station COPS style.
With a shaky hold on power, Nkurunziza is flexing his muscle and setting the tone for this summer’s national elections. Even if these plotters were a critical threat to political stability, the public dimension of this foiled coup narrative makes it all seem a bit more performative than serious.
That said, I am looking forward to the new to the new government sponsored TV show, Coup Plotters.