A day after a coup to overthrow him was attempted, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza announced that he had returned to the country. His troops had gained control of key points, he added.
In a violent clash in the capital, Bujumbura, five soldiers were reported to have been killed at the state radio office, as reported by BBC. The violence has since been diffused.
When the coup instigated on Wednesday, Nkurunziza had been in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, where he was attending a summit of African leaders to discuss the crisis in Burundi.
Gunshots were heard in the coup instigated by Maj Gen Godefroid Niyombare, a former ally of the president, carried out to overthrow Nkurunziza.
Gad Ngajimana, who lives in the capital, said, “People are staying indoors, not moving. There was some fighting this morning. Gunfire lasted about 30 minutes. Now there is only gunfire about once every 10 minutes.”
It was not certain who was in control of the situation, he said.
He added, “The faces of the people — they are very scared. Either it is a coup or not, no one knows.”
However, the president undermined the coup attempt. He requested the people not to panic.
He said in a Twitter post, “We ask all the people of Burundi to stay calm in the face of the impostor. The situation is under control and the constitutional order has been safeguarded.”
He later posted a Twitter message announcing his arrival into the country. He congratulated “the army and the police for their patriotism” and praised the “Burundians for their patience.”
Je suis au #Burundi. Je félicite l'armée et la police pour leur patriotisme. Je félicite surtout les burundais pour leur patience.
— Pierre Nkurunziza (@pnkurunziza) May 14, 2015
Although no developments were presented on Thursday by Gen Niyombare, a spokesman for the coup forces, Gen Cyrille Ndayirukiye, announced that the uprising had been thwarted.
According to Al Jazeera, he said, “Personally, I recognise that our movement has failed. We were faced with an overpowering military determination to support the system in power.”
State Department acting deputy spokesman Jeff Rathke said that the U.S. diplomats were “deeply concerned.”
Rathke said, “Our embassy has received reports that the airport continues to be closed and that the land borders may also be closed or restricted at this time.”
He said that “President Nkurunziza remains the President of Burundi,” and asked Americans there to “exercise extreme caution,” stating that “travel in Bujumbura currently is not safe.”
The United Nations Security Council expressed condemnation for the violence in Burundi and “called for the swift return of the rule of law,” the French mission at the U.N. tweeted.
— La France à l'ONU (@franceonu) May 14, 2015
Demonstrations erupted in the capital on April 25 after Nkurunziza was nominated for another term in the June elections. This violates an agreement that brought the ten-year civil war – from 1993 to 2003 – to an end.
Nearly 70,000 refugees have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda, according to the United Nations.
Nsengiyumva Pierre Claver, a former member of a European Union electoral monitoring team, expressed concern that the situation can spin out of control very quickly.
“There is a very great risk of ethnic conflict,” he said.
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