Burundi's Major-General Godefroid Niyombare
Burundi's Major-General Godefroid Niyombare

Burundi's Major-General Godefroid Niyombare announced on radio on 13 May that President Pierre Nkurunziza was removed following weeks of violence erupted in the country after the leader said he will seek a third term in the June election.

Protesters accused the leader of violating the constitution and the Arusha Peace Agreement, which says the president can only stay in power for two terms. At least 20 demonstrators were killed while reports emerged that police fired on protesters.

As Nkurunziza travelled to Tanzania to attend an extraordinary meeting of the East African Community (EAC) – formed of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi - on the ongoing unrest, Niyombare announced: "Active forces of the nation have decided to take charge of the nation. President Pierre Nkurunziza is removed from office."

Niyombare was appointed High Commander of the Burundian army in 2014, replacing Adolphe Nshimirimana. He previously worked as ambassador to Kenya.

The general has been described as "a disciplined, lucid, flexible man and a true believer".

He was also deemed a "visionary" for his previous work as ambassador and while he was employed for Nkurunziza's National Council for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD) party and Burundi's National Defence Force (FDN).

In an article by Gahuza.com, Niyombare was praised for having raised the profile of the Burundi embassy in Kenya. The article described him as a "charismatic leader whose influence does not stop gaining ground on the national socio-political scene."

He was fired by Nkurunziza as intelligence chief in February 2015 and reports said he resigned from his position of presidential police chief after a report emerged that Nkurunziza had claimed a third mandate. Niyombare deemed the president's third bid as "unconstitutional".

According to a report by Reuters, a senior CNDD-FDD official said Niyombare and his deputies were punished for asking the president not to stand for re-election in June.

In 2010 Niyombare announced that 12 soldiers and one officer had been arrested after being caught in a meeting near Lake Tanganyika where they plotted to overthrow Nkurunziza.

burundi coup
Crowds pour onto the streets of Burundi's capital to celebrate after a general said he was dismissing President Pierre Nkurunziza for violating the constitution by seeking a third term in office Goran Tomasevic/Reuters