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Burundi president sacks commerce minister amid graft claims

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Burundi’s President<br />Evariste Ndayishimiye PHOTO: STR/AFP via Getty Images

Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye has sacked his commerce minister because she risked “compromising the country’s economy,” as sources in the ruling regime alleged she had embezzled airline funds.

“Considering the acts of the person concerned risk compromising the country’s economy and the image of Burundi… the honourable Immaculee Ndabaneze is dismissed from her functions as minister of commerce, transport, industry and tourism,” the presidency said in a statement posted Saturday on the state house’s official Twitter account.

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The statement did not provide further details.

But according to corroborating sources within the ruling regime, the minister was dismissed for the illegal sale of the last plane of the now defunct Air Burundi and for allegedly embezzling funds intended to go towards the country’s future flagship carrier Burundi Airlines.

The plane, a Beechcraft 1900, had not flown in more than a decade and was sold to a South African businessman without governmental approval, the sources said.

Ndayishimiye, who took office in June 2020, has made fighting corruption a top priority in Burundi, which has for years been ranked among the top 10 most corrupt countries, according to Amnesty International.

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At least three managing directors, including the head of budget programming, as well as 119 municipal accountants have been dismissed over alleged embezzlement in just the last three months.

However none of them have been prosecuted, to the disappointment of anti-corruption organisations.

“These people must be prosecuted and their guilt established,” said Faustin Ndikumana, the head of campaign group Parcem.

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Gabriel Rufyiri, the president of anti-corruption organisation Olucome, agreed.

“The people have the right to know why these people are dismissed, and for which corruption cases, because it is public money — it is their money,” he said.

Ndayishimiye announced in March that there will no prosecutions for corruption cases that took place before June 19, 2020, the day he was sworn in.

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He also publicly exonerated all senior officials from the constitutional obligation to declare assets.

A senior official in the regime told AFP on condition of anonymity that “the president must take into account the fact that the heavyweights of this (ruling) party have become outrageously wealthy over the last 15 years and they are often behind all corruption cases”.

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