General claims control over most of Burundi capital, clashes

Heavy clashes continued in Burundi as general Niyombare claimed control of much of Bujumbura

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A day after Burundi’s General Godefroid Niyombare announced the dismissal of President Pierre Nkurunziza, clashes continued across the capital city of Bujumbura.

DPA reported that gunshots and explosions were heard in the early hours of Thursday as General Niyombare claimed control over most of the capital.

The report was corroborated by BBC which reported that clashes between pro-president and military forces clashed near the state broadcasting facility where Nkurunziza’s forces took up garrison early Wednesday.

Burundi's former intelligence chief, surrounded by the country’s top security officials, announced on 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, said reporters gathered at a military barracks where 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 news was initially met with massive celebration rallies on Wednesday noon-time before forces loyal to the presidency and the army began exchanging fire near the presidential palace and the state broadcasting facility.

Unable to land at the Bujumbura airport on Wednesday night due to a military imposed black out of the facility, Nkurunziza returned to Tanzania where he was seeking support for a controversial third term in office.

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 by lawmakers and not through elections.

From an undisclosed location in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam, Nkurunziza released a statement pleasing for calm in the country.

"President Pierre Nkurunziza calls on the Burundian people to remain calm,” the statement read.

Nkurunziza also said that the situation was under control and "constitutional order has been safeguarded” through a post on his official Twitter page.

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

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

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