By Calvin Osiemo
Burundi Presidrent Pierre Nkurunzinza is still stuck in Tanzania after an alleged coup in Burundi yesterday. Nkurunzinza had attended a summit in Dar es Salaam but reports indicate that when he was flying to Burundi, the airport in Bujumbura was shut down to prevent him from landing back forcing his plane to go back to Tanzania. There has been heavy fighting overnight between military officers loyal to Nkurunzinza and those of the opposition making it hard to verify whether the coup was successful or not. The faction opposing Nkurunzinza says he should not run for presidency for the third term, a move which they say is unconstitutional. Nkurunzinza argued that he has a right to vie for a third term in office because the fist term he took over power, he was not elected but rather appointed by the role of parliament therefore saying he is not violating the constitution. The High court in Burundi signed his bid under unclear circumstances clearing him to run.
The coup which was announced by a former close ally of Nkurunzinza Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare who was fired as intelligence chief after he opposed Nkurunzinza’s third term bid. Thousands of people came out to the streets of Burundi to celebrate the announcement by Maj. Gen. Niyombare. The two fighting groups struggled to get control of the National Television and Radio station. Making the announcement on radio, Maj. Gen. Niyombare said he does not accept Nkurunziza’s bid to run for a third term which is in contravention of the constitution.
“The masses vigorously and tenaciously reject President Nkurunziza’s third term mandate. President Pierre Nkurunzinza has been relieved of his duties. The government has been overthrown,” Maj. Gen. Niyombare said.
Ironically, a few hours later the government dismissed the coup as just a mere joke.
“It is with regret that we have learned that a group from the armed forces mutinied this morning and declared an imaginary coup. This coup attempt has been foiled and that these people, who read the coup announcement on the radio, are being hunted by defense and security forces so they can be brought to justice,” said the Presidency.
On Thursday moring, Burundi armed forces chief announced that the attempted coup against Nkurunzinza had failed. Gen. Prime Niyongabo said the coup had been stopped and that pro-Nkurunzinza forces controlled the Presidential office and palace.
“The National Defense Force calls on the mutineers to give themselves up,” he said.
An officer from the rebel camp Police Commissioner Venon Ndabanaze said that the coup was successful and that his side is in control of the presidential office and the place including Bujumbura’s international airport
“This message does not surprise us because the general has long been allied to the forces of evil and lies,” said Ndabanaze.
There have been claims of negotiations between the two rival military factions but the outcome of the meetings remains uncertain in which the military seems to be still sharply divided over the issue. Burundi is still recovering from the 13 years civil war that engulfed the country and lead to the death of thousands of people.