Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi’s President has returned to Burundi, and his troops have said that they are in control of certain key locations since the coup attempt. In the capital city, Bujumbura experienced severe fights, mostly localized at the state radio office. However, the fighting has since, subsided. However, five soldiers were killed.
Wednesday, when the coup began, President Nkurunziza was in Tanzania. When Nkurunziza announced that he would be seeking a third term on April 26, which was believed by some to be unconstitutional, the protests began.
Major General Godefroid Niyombare, who had been formerly united with the president, launched the coup Wednesday, after Nkurunziza left for Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest city and he was attending a crisis summit. General Niyombare did not have any comments Thursday.
Late Wednesday, reports said that Nkurunziza tried to get a return flight to Burundi, but was unable to land so he was forced to return to Tanzania. A Burundian spokesman for the president, Willy Nyamitwe, reported to the BBC Thursday, that Nkurunziza had left Tanzania and was safe. Later, it was confirmed that the president was back in Burundi, but could not give any more details for security reasons.
Earlier Nkurunziza had told Radio France Internationale that the loyalist army was present, as well as his advisors and the government. Therefore, the country is continuing to function. He posted on Twitter a thank you to the police and army for their patriotism, and above all, for the patience of his people.
Chief of Staff, General Prime Niyongabo, told the BBC that there were less soldiers backing the coup. Wednesday, the soldiers were given the option to return to the army so there would not be a bloodbath. However, the coup attacked the radio station today, but the army was able to stop them.
Loyalist police are controlling the streets, and the airport has reopened, confirming that the country is in the hands of loyalists. However, Venon Nbabaneze, a spokesman for the coup, maintains that rebel troops are in control of the city.
Fighting started at the radio station after it broadcasted a message from Nkurunziza criticizing the coup. The president thanked the soldiers who are keeping things in order, and has said he is willing to forgive “any soldier who surrenders.”
By Jeanette Smith
BBC: Burundi Coup Bid: President Returns to Bujumbura
Photo courtesy of East-Central Africa Division’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License