In Burundi, Deputy Coup Leader Says Takeover Failed

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burundi-coupThe leaders of Wednesday’s coup against the Burundian president have acknowledged their attempt has failed.

Deputy coup leader General Cyrille Ndayirukiye said late Thursday that his movement was overpowered by forces loyal to the president, Pierre Nkurunziza.

Nkurunziza is reported to be back in Burundi after returning from Tanzania, where he was attending a regional meeting when the coup was announced Wednesday.

Nkurunziza’s office said Thursday the president salutes the army, police and Burundian people. It says security forces are looking for the coup leaders so they can be brought to justice.

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Rival army factions were still battling for control of the capital, Bujumbura, earlier Thursday. The fighting was centered around the state radio and TV complex, with troops who support the coup trying to take it from soldiers loyal to the president.

A pro-coup spokesman told VOA’s Central Africa Service that presidential loyalists remain in control of the broadcast center. He said coup supporters have withdrawn from the area.

State radio, which had gone off the air, returned after about 90 minutes, playing what listeners describe as unity songs.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said the United States recognizes Nkurunziza as the legitimate president of Burundi and called on all sides to avoid violence and respect human rights.

Former intelligence chief General Godefroid Niyombare used privately-owned radio stations to announce the president’s dismissal Wednesday. The general had been fired from his position as Burundi’s intelligence chief in February.

Protests have shaken Burundi since April 26 when President Nkurunziza announced he would run for a controversial third term. Fighting between police and protesters have killed at least 14 people.

The opposition says a third term would be unconstitutional. The president’s supporters insist it is legal because he was chosen by lawmakers, not a general election, for his first five-year term in 2005. Burundi’s constitutional court has ruled in his favor.

The chair of the African Union condemned the coup attempt in Bujumbura and called for the return of constitutional order. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma also warned that further violence will likely lead to “further loss of lives, population displacement and destruction of property.”


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