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Burundi: Leaders Of Attempted Coup Arrested After President’s Return


Nkurunziza     Niyombare

Nkurunziza                                                                    Niyombare

Burundian authorities said yesterday that they arrested the military generals behind an attempted coup shortly after the President returned to the landlocked central African nation.

The coup attempt, which was announced by one of the generals Wednesday but subsequently failed, came after deadly protests over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term.

CNN reported that those arrested will be charged with mutiny in a military court, said Willy Nyamitwe, a government spokesman.

He did not specify the number of arrests, but said Nkurunziza is scheduled to address the nation.
Army Gen. Godefroid Niyombare, who announced the coup on radio Wednesday, was among those arrested, the spokesman said.

The arrests come after the President, who was in Tanzania for a summit earlier this week, said he was back home. His exact location was not released, but he sent a tweet congratulating security forces on “their patriotism” and Burundians “for their patience.”

The protests that preceded the coup attempt sparked fears that Burundi could plunge into ethnic violence, with the country’s history of civil war making it vulnerable to deep divisions.

Shortly after the general announced the attempted coup, the government downplayed it.

Reports of a coup are “a joke,” the government spokesman said. The President’s office said some soldiers had declared an “imaginary” coup and appealed for calm, saying security forces are looking for the culprits.

Nkurunziza urged citizens not to panic.

“We ask all the people of Burundi to stay calm in the face of the impostor,” the President tweeted Thursday. “The situation is under control and the constitutional order has been safeguarded.”

He did not say where he was tweeting from or whether he had left Tanzania after the summit.

The international airport in the capital of Bujumbura was shut down; so were the nation’s land borders. Fear and uncertainty reigned, as gunfire and explosions rang out in Bujumbura for hours Wednesday and Thursday.

“People are staying indoors, not moving,” said Gad Ngajimana, who lives in Bujumbura.

“The faces of the people — they are very scared. Either it is a coup or not, no one knows.”

Niyombare, a former head of Burundian intelligence, was fired by the President in February. Animosity against the President started last month when he expressed his intention to extend his 10-year rule.

Nkurunziza is seeking a third term, which is prohibited by the agreement that ended the 1993-2003 civil war. Protesters determined to prevent his candidacy have demonstrated in the capital, and police have met them with deadly force.

Tensions between anti-Nkurunziza protesters and police continued yesterday. In the Musaga area of the capital, police fired their guns into the air in an attempt to move protesters who had erected barricades in the area.

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