September 20, 2020

Revealed: How Burundi’s President Sneaked Back Home

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By Derrick Kiplagat

Burundi’s presidency on Thursday revealed that the President, Pierre Nkurunziza, had returned to the country from Dar-es-S alaam but remained silent on how the President came back to the country without arousing suspicion from many officials or the public after the failed coup attempt. Etaarifa News has gone to the roots and found out how the President “sneaked” back.

According to government sources and some security personnel, the President reportedly turned down an offer to go into exile in South Africa and was in fact desperate to get to the country after confirming that the army, loyal to him were in control after the failed coup.

On Wednesday night, President Nkurunziza spent his night at a hotel in Dar-es-Salaam after an attempt to jet to Burundi failed because the coup leaders had taken over the airport after rebel General Godefroid Niyombare declared on radio that he had overthrown the then embattled President.

The following day, Thursday, Nkurunziza remained grounded in an undisclosed location, with his bodyguards, from where he was driven to the Julius Nyerere International Airport, for the first phase of his journey, when his soldiers had gained an upper hand in the country.

The Journey

At the airport, the Burundi leader boarded a plane that had been hired from South Africa and flew to Kigoma town. Kigoma town is situated on the far western part of Tanzania and borders Burundi. This is the point at which the President was to cross over to Burundi.

According to reports, President Nkurunziza arrived at Kigoma after an hour’s flight from Nyerere International Airport. At 5.30 the President boarded a Tanzanian Peoples Defence Force (TPDF) chopper that was to take him to Ngozi in Burundi.

The chopper, under the command of senior army officers flew a distance of 450 Kilometres from Kigoma to Ngozi. Here, the President was handed over to an advanced unit of his security and officers from the intelligence department who had earlier been dispatched from Bujumbura. From here, the President was driven in a small convoy to reach Bujumbura from where he took to the social media to appeal for calm and that he was back in charge. This is also where the President thanked those loyal to his government.

However, despite his secret return to the country, many are still opposed to his bid for a third term in office. Protestors have continued fighting the police and the factions of the army loyal to Nkurunziza demanding he not run for a third term as it violates the Arusha peace accord that marked the end of a civil war that had traumatized thousands of Burundi nationals for 12 years with 300,000 recorded deaths and more displaced refugees seeking asylum in Tanzania and Rwanda.

Also, coup leader General Godefroid Niyombare remains at large and has vowed to surrender himself to authorities only if President Nkurunziza will promise not to kill him. General Niyombare has made it clear that he is sceptical of the President’s alleged forgiveness offered to those rebel soldiers who will surrender themselves to loyalist factions.

The world continues to watch the troubled nation with bated breath; praying civil war is not at the end of its story yet again.

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