Clashes break out as Burundi general announces coup

Reports of clashes between rival security factions emerge following attempted ouster of Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Burundi's former intelligence chief, surrounded by the country’s top security officials, announced Wednesday that President Pierre Nkurunziza had been “dismissed” following two weeks of violent crackdowns on protests across the country.

Reuters reported that Major General Godefroid Niyombare, who Nkurunziza fired from his post as intelligence chief in February, told reporters gathered at a military barracks that Nkurunziza had been dismissed by the country’s security forces.

"Regarding President Nkurunziza's arrogance and defiance of the international community which advised him to respect the constitution and Arusha peace agreement, the committee for the establishment of the national concord decide: President Nkurunziza is dismissed, his government is dismissed too,” Niyombare said at the press conference accompanied by the nation’s leading military and police officials.

The development comes after police opened fire on protesters with live ammunition earlier in the day.

Celebrations and clashes break out after announcement

Following news of Nkurunziza’s dismissal, crowds gathered in the country’s capital of Bujumbura to celebrate.

Reuters reported that streets in the city were filled with people singing and cheering at the announcement.

Although the celebrations indicate support for the coup among many Burubdians, the annoucement also caused clashes to break out between rival security factions with loyalties to the military and Nkurunziza.

The French state-run AFP news agency reported that witnesses in Burundi claimed that clashes between Nkurunziza-oyal forces and soldiers continued as the former’s supporters still had control of critical institutions including the country’s presidential palace and state broadcaster, where loyalist forces fired warning shots on groups of protesters attempting to approach the facility.

Nkurunziza’s forces had encircled the state television and radio service earlier in the day following the announcement of General Niyombare’s dismissal.

The clashes come as Nkurunziza announced through his official Twitter page that the the coup against him had “failed.”

Sources on the ground reported that a joint statement from the military and police chiefs was read declaring that they would arrest Nkurunziza at the airport upon his return from Tanzania.

Burundi has been hit by protests in opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza's running for a third term as Burundi's constitution stipulates that a president can only serve for two terms.

The constitution limits the presidency to two terms in office, but Nkurunziza's supporters said he can run again because he was selected for his first term lawmakers and not through elections.

Tens of people died, with one demonstrator having been burned alive by security forces, in protests spanning the course of two weeks.

Protesters say his attempt at a third term is illegal according to a 2006 peace deal between Hutus and Tutsis which ended a 13 year long conflict that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in the country.

TRTWorld and agencies