Burundi coup attempt fails as army chiefs arrested
Published 15/05/2015 | 09:25
Burundi's authorities said the leader of the attempt to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza was "still on the run" following the arrest of three generals for their role in an attempted coup.
After Thursday's heavy fighting for control of the state radio headquarters and frequent gunfire in the capital, the streets of Bujumbura were quiet on Friday morning.
Nkurunziza, who had been in Tanzania when Major General Godefroid Niyombare said on Wednesday he was leading a bid to overthrow him, came back to Burundi on Thursday, another signal that the government had regained control of the capital.
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The president was due to address the nation "in the coming hours", presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho told Reuters.
Nkurunziza has returned to face alarming splits in the army and a nation where thousands of protesters in Bujumbura had rallied against his bid for a third term in office.
The protesters had celebrated on the streets when the coup was declared.
The unrest has plunged Burundi into its deepest crisis since an ethnically fuelled civil war ended in 2005.
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One police general and two army generals were arrested "for involvement in the aborted coup," the presidential spokesman said, adding one of them was former Defence Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye.
But coup leader Niyombare, who was fired from a briefly held post of intelligence chief by Nkurunziza in February, was not one of those held, he said.
"He is still on the run. His whereabouts are not known to us," Abayeho added.
The coup followed more than two weeks of protests in Bujumbura, in which demonstrators often clashed with police, who were often seen firing live rounds at protesters.
More than 20 people were killed, according to an unofficial tally by activists. Scores were also wounded.
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The heavy-handed response of the police drew stern rebukes from Western donors, who have urged the president not to run again.
The United States, which provides training and equipment to the army, demanded a halt to "violent force" used by police.
The constitution and a peace deal that ended the civil war set a two-term presidential limit, but a court ruled that Nkurunziza could run again because he was appointed by parliament, not elected, to his first term.
His opponents and some donors have questioned the court's impartiality.
Several African leaders had criticised Nkurunziza's bid for re-election in the June 26 presidential vote, and the African Union condemned any attempt to seize "power through violence".