Burundi authorities arrest 3 generals over coup attempt

2015-05-15 09:00
File: AFP

File: AFP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bujumbura - An attempt to overthrow Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza ended in failure on Friday as coup leaders admitted defeat and were arrested or hunted down by loyalist troops.

General Godefroid Niyombare, who launched the coup in the central African nation earlier in the week, told AFP by telephone that he wanted to give himself up, and said soldiers supporting the president were approaching him.

"We have decided to surrender," he said. "I hope they won't kill us."

It was not immediately clear if he was arrested or killed.

The coup leaders' spokesperson, Venon Ndabaneze, was also speaking to AFP confirming that the putschists had decided to surrender when loyalist troops arrested him, deputy coup leader Cyrille Ndayirukiye and another senior figure among the mutineers.

"We decided to give ourselves up. We have laid down our arms. We have called the security ministry to tell them we no longer have any arms," Ndabaneze said, seconds before he could be heard being arrested.

Weeks of violent street protests

AFP remained on the line as the leaders were detained.

The dramatic end to the coup attempt came shortly after the presidency announced that Nkurunziza - who was abroad when the coup was declared - had returned to the country.

He was in neighbouring Tanzania for regional talks on Wednesday when Niyombare launched the coup, in a culmination of weeks of violent street protests against the president's bid to seek a third term.

Another coup leader, General Cyrille Ndayirukiye, said the rebels had been "faced with an overpowering military determination to support the system in power".

The coup attempt had raised fears of a return to widespread violence in the impoverished country, which is still recovering from a 13-year civil war that ended in 2006 and left hundreds of thousands dead.

On Thursday, loyalist troops fought off two major attacks by rival soldiers in an intense battle for control over the strategically important state broadcaster.

The fight for RTNB, the state radio and television broadcaster, was seen as crucial to control the flow of information as Burundi's main private radio stations and the largest independent television channel were no longer broadcasting. The influential African Public Radio station was even set ablaze after being hit by a rocket.

Tens of thousands flee

A senior police official said the pro-coup troops were "in disarray" after their assault on the RTNB state television and radio complex in the capital was repelled.

The bodies of three soldiers were seen by an AFP journalist lying in the street near the scene of the clashes.

By mid-afternoon, station director Jerome Nzokirantevye said it was "loyalist soldiers who are in control".

Wednesday's coup announcement drew international criticism, with the United States insisting that Nkurunziza remained "the legitimate president" -- even if it has also been firmly critical of his bid to stay in power.

The United Nations Security Council, in emergency talks on the crisis, called for an end to the violence and "the holding of credible elections" while separately, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned "attempts to oust elected governments by military force" and urged calm.

Opposition and rights groups insist that it is unconstitutional for Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005, to run for more than two terms. The president, however, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.

Death threats

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority and born-again Christian, also believes he ascended to the presidency with divine backing.

More than 25 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when Burundi's ruling CNDD-FDD party - which has been accused of intimidating the opposition and arming its own militia - nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election in June 26 polls.

It remains unclear, however, how many have died since the launch of the coup.

More than 50 000 Burundians have fled the violence to neighbouring nations in recent weeks, with the UN preparing for thousands more refugees.

In his message announcing the coup, Niyombare signalled he did not want to take power himself, vowing instead to work for "the resumption of the electoral process in a peaceful and fair environment".

Niyombare is a highly respected figure who was sacked from his intelligence post in February after he opposed Nkurunziza's attempt to prolong his 10-year rule.

Asked to decide on the issue of a third term, Burundi's constitutional court found in the president's favour, but not before one of the judges fled the country claiming its members were subject to death threats.

Read more on:    pierre nkurunziza  |  burundi  |  east africa  |  burundi protests

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.