Burundian General Declares Coup Against President NkurunzizaMay 13, 2015 in Burundi
In a surprise move, a top Burundian general on Wednesday announced the overthrow of President Pierre Nkurunziza. The announcement follows weeks of violent protests against the President’s bid to stand for a third term in office.
During a radio broadcast, General Godefroid Niyombare, who in February was dismissed from his position as the Central African nation’s powerful chief of intelligence, stated “regarding President Nkurunziza’s arrogance and defiance of the international community which advised him to respect the constitution and Arusha peace agreement, the committee for the establishment of the national concord decide: President Nkurunziza is dismissed, his government is dismissed too.” General Niyombare further disclosed that he was working with civil society groups, religious leaders and politicians in order to form a transitional government.
The announcement came just hours after President Nkurunziza arrived in neighbouring Tanzania for talks aimed at ending the crisis. The presidential office quickly dismissed the declaration, stating that it is “a joke.” While it remains unclear whether General Niyombare has the support of the military, on the ground sources reported that police have vanished from the streets of the capital city as thousands of people celebrated the coup attempt against the president.
According to an unofficial count by activists, more than twenty people have been killed since violent street protests erupted more than two weeks ago. Demonstrators, and the country’s opposition, maintain that President Nkurunziza’s bid for another five-year term in office violates a two-term limit in the constitution and the Arusha peace agreement, which ended an ethnically fuelled civil war in 2005 that killed 300,000 people.
Several Western donors, including the United States, have criticized the president’s decision to stand again. Growing international concern over the situation in Burundi resulted in East African leaders and a top official from South Africa to meet in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam in order to discuss the on-going crisis, which has already spilled over into a region that has a history of ethnic conflict. According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 50,000 people have fled to neighbouring states because of the violence in Burundi, with UN officials stating that the crisis is heading towards a “worst case scenario” that could see 300,000 people fleeing, with some relocating to other parts of Burundi, while others opting to flee abroad.