Whose Burundi is it now?

14 May 2015 - 02:07 By Reuters, AFP, Staff reporter

Burundi's presidency said yesterday that an attempted coup led by a general had been "foiled" and that the perpetrators would be brought to justice. "It is with regret that we have learned that a group from the armed forces mutinied this morning and declared an imaginary coup," the office of President Pierre Nkurunziza said in its first full statement since the coup attempt was launched."The presidency informs national and international public opinion that this coup attempt has been foiled and that these people, who read the coup announcement on the radio, are being hunted by defence and security forces so that they can be brought to justice."Nkurunziza was flying home yesterday, said the government of Tanzania, where a meeting of leaders of the five nations of the East African Community, plus South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, was taking place to discuss the Burundi crisis.A Tanzanian Foreign Ministry official said Nkurunziza had not attended the discussions and had left Tanzania for Burundi.The announcement was made as soldiers surrounded the state broadcaster's building in the capital. Jubilant men jumped onto tanks as they rolled towards the city centre.General Godefroid Niyombare, a powerful former intelligence chief who was sacked earlier in the year, announced on a private radio station that the president had been overthrown a few hours after he left for the talks in Tanzania.Niyombare ordered the closure of Bujumbura airport and the landlocked central African nation's borders.Pro-Nkurunziza troops were still in control of key institutions, including the presidential palace and state broadcaster, an AFP correspondent and witnesses said.Troops fired warning shots to stop demonstrators from marching on the television and radio building."President Pierre Nkurunziza is removed from office; the government is dissolved," Niyombare said on the Insaganiro radio station, which sent opposition supporters into the streets in celebration."All people are asked to respect the lives and property of others," said the general, vowing that he was committed to the democratic process and would form a "committee for the restoration of national harmony".Niyombare is a highly respected figure who was sacked from his intelligence post in February after he opposed Nkurunziza's attempt to prolong his 10-year rule.Over 20 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD party - which has been accused of intimidating the opposition and arming its own militia - nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election on June 26.The clashes between security forces and demonstrators have raised fears of a return to widespread violence in Burundi, which is still recovering from a brutal 13-year civil war that ended in 2006. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the conflict.Opposition and rights groups insist that it is unconstitutional for Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005, to run for more than two terms.He argues that his first presidential term did not count because he was elected then by parliament, not directly by the people.Asked to rule on the issue, Burundi's constitutional court found in his favour but not before one of its judges fled the country, claiming that its members were subjected to death threats.The AU, EU and US condemned the third-term bid.But Nkurunziza has repeatedly rejected calls to abandon his re-election ambitions.More than 50000 Burundians have fled the violence to neighbouring nations.

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