Burundi cops withdraw, army quelling protests

2015-05-18 20:49
Demonstrators make way for an ambulance carrying wounded and a military truck going through during clashes with riot police in the Musaga district of Bujumbura, Burundi. (Jerome Delay, AP)

Demonstrators make way for an ambulance carrying wounded and a military truck going through during clashes with riot police in the Musaga district of Bujumbura, Burundi. (Jerome Delay, AP)

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

Bujumbura - Army soldiers were deployed on Monday for the first time in Burundi to quell street protests, putting the military into a precarious position amid persistent demonstrations against the president's bid for a third term.

A group of soldiers confronting hundreds of demonstrators almost opened fire on each other amid a dispute on whether to use lethal force against them, sharply illustrating the difficult position the military has been thrust into.

In an apparent effort to assert greater control over the military, President Pierre Nkurunziza fired his defence minister, Pontien Gaciyubenge, who earlier this month had said the army would play a neutral role in the street protests and respect the Constitution.

Nkurunziza also replaced International Affairs Minister Laurent Kavakure and Trade Minister Marie Nizigiyimana, Presidential spokesperson Gervais Abayeho said.

The protests began three weeks ago after the ruling party named Nkurunziza as its candidate in June elections. The situation grew even more volatile last week when a general announced a coup, which collapsed within two days. Police had tried to crush the protests at the cost of at least 15 lives, but since Nkurunziza returned to the presidential palace this weekend after loyalist troops overwhelmed the rebel faction, the army appears to have inherited the role of putting down the demonstrations.

In Bujumbura's Musaga neighbourhood, armed soldiers faced off with hundreds of angry protesters who called for Nkurunziza to reverse his decision to seek another term in office, which many say is unconstitutional.

An Associated Press reporter in Musaga, where protesters put up barricades of burning tires, saw two soldiers fire into a crowd of protesters, who had repeatedly shouted, "Shoot us." No casualties were seen.

The soldiers who fired the shots were then ordered to leave the front line, sparking a rift between soldiers who opposed shooting at protesters and those who supported such action. Amid the stand-off, the group opposed to shooting at protesters cocked their guns and threatened to shoot their colleagues if they fired into the crowd.

"The military is shooting at us, you have seen for yourselves," said protester Alfred Nsengumukiza. "They came here pushing and shoving us and also doing the same to journalists, then they opened fire."

No police

No police were seen in Musaga and Cibitoke, a sign that the army, which previously had acted as a buffer between angry protesters and the police, has now taken over operations against demonstrators. The soldiers are armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Seventeen security officials, including five generals, accused in the attempted coup were charged on Saturday with attempting to destabilize public institutions, said lawyers of some of the suspects. Major General Godefroid Niyombare, the former intelligence chief who announced the coup on Wednesday, remains at large.

Nkurunziza, who was in Tanzania for a summit to discuss his nation's troubles when the coup attempt was announced, made his first public appearance in Bujumbura on Sunday.

The US government has raised concern over reports of retaliatory attacks in the aftermath of the attempted coup. It has urged Nkurunziza to condemn and stop the alleged use of violence by the police and the ruling party's youth militias against those who participate in street protests.

Fearing political violence, more than 105 000 Burundians have fled to neighbouring countries recently, according to the UN.

Read more on:    burundi  |  east africa

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
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
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.