By Derrick Kiplagat
Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza returned to Burundi on Thursday after the army chief declared that an attempted coup staged while he was outside the country had failed. Blasts of gunfire in Burundi’s capital have been reported and also the fight for the control of the state radio yesterday in the city indicates there is still determined opposition to the president who sparked rebellion and the attempted coup by his intention to run for the third term.
According to critics, the President’s move to seek a third term in office violates the country’s constitution and the Arusha peace deal which brought an end to an ethnically fuelled civil war in 2005. They predict a possible rebellion which could spark a civil war.
The president’s loyalists declared full control of major strategic assets such as the presidential offices and the airport before announcing the president’s return to the country. The loyalists also said they had full control of the state broadcaster despite massive fights.
“President Nkurunziza is back in Burundi after the attempted coup. He congratulates the army, the police and the Burundian people” said a text from the office of the president. A presidential official has come out to verify this information but could not disclose where the Nkurunziza is and how he got back to the country.
The president was in the neighbouring Tanzania on Wednesday when Major Godefroid Niyombare, who the presently sacked as the Head of National Intelligence, declared on a private radio that he had overthrown the president and his government. A day later, Army Chief of Staff General Prime Niyongabo said the coup had failed. “Loyal forces are still controlling all strategic points,” he said on a state radio.
Nkurunziza’s return to the country is a big shot to the arm of the government, indicating that the government was back in control although calm was broken in Bujumbura on Thursday by blasts and gunfire. Later in the evening the city was back on track after factions of the army loyal to the president came in to put order.
In a broadcast earlier, Nkurunziza offered amnesty to rebel troops. He said “I thank soldiers who are putting things in order, and I forgive any soldier who decides to surrender.” Sources say, a soldier’s body has been spotted lying near the ministry of interior, troops have said the soldier was a coup supporter.
His return home will bring a smile to the faces of his loyalists but he will be looking at a bigger task of trying to convince a majority of citizens to support his third presidential bid. The past two weeks Bujumbura has been full of people protesting against his third bid.
In the past, Nkurunziza has justified his bid for an additional five years in office by pointing out to a constitutional court ruling which said the president could run because his first term, when he was picked by parliament rather than by vote, did not count. Critics have termed this court ruling as “biased”.