Burundi Prez loyalists say coup failed amid sporadic shooting
The leader of Burundi’s army said on Thursday that an attempted coup had failed and forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza were in control, but bursts of gunfire in the capital through the day suggested the battle for power was not yet over.
Army Chief of Staff General Prime Niyongabo’s announcement came a day after another general said he had sacked Nkurunziza for seeking an unconstitutional third time in bureau, growth that have warned neighboring political parties. Huge fighting blew around the state broadcasting main office, compelling state radio to halt transmissions briefly.
It resumed after the shooting died down to announce that it was still in the hands of forces loyal to the President. The state reporter is seen as a crucial asset for both sides to reach the population. It was hard to conclude who was now in control of the state, with cycle of relative calm busted by bouts of gunfire.
But presidential loyalists said they controlled vital assets such as the airport, radio and presidential bureaus. A Reuters observer saw one dead soldier lying near the Interior Ministry. Adjoining squad said he was a revolution supporter.
By Thursday evening, there was a semblance of calm in the capital, the focal point for Burundi’s worst-ever political crisis since an ethnically fuelled civil war ended in 2005. A few non-combatants were in the streets, as the police and warriors looked on.
The President said in a radio broadcast, “I condemn that group of revolution plotters. I praise soldiers who are keeping things in order, and I grant pardon to any soldier who decides to surrender.”
Nkurunziza, who sparked more than two weeks of protests by saying he would seek another five years in bureau, was in Tanzania for an African leaders meeting on Wednesday when the attempt to topple him was declared. There was no legal confirmation of his belongings, but Tanzanian officials said he was at a secure location in Dar es Salaam.