Burundi Army General Declares Coup Against President Nkurunziza

Burundi Army General Declares Coup Against President Nkurunziza

A Burundian soldier, right, waits to take off in a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Bujmumbura International Airport in Burundi Dec. 13, 2013. U.S. military aircraft were dispatched to transport Burundian forces to Bangui, Central African Republic, in support of an African Union effort to quell violence there. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erik Cardenas/Released)

According to reports from Burundi, a army general said on Wednesday that the military had ‘dismissed’ embattled president Pierre Nkurunziza, who has faced bloody protests in the last few weeks over his decision to run for a third term, in a coup.

Senior army generals, led by Major General Godefroid Niyombare, announced the coup on a local radio station, saying they were dismissing President Nkurunziza, who is on a state visit in Tanzania to meet leaders of the East African Community over the recent violence in the country.

Niyombare was fired by Nkurunziza as intelligence chief in February.

“President Pierre Nkurunziza has been relieved of his duties. The government is overthrown,” BBC News quotes Niyombare saying in a radio broadcast. “The masses have decided to take into their own hands the destiny of the nation to remedy this unconstitutional environment into which Burundi has been plunged.”

Reuters quoted a statement from the office of the president saying that the army’s attempt to overthrow Nkurunziza was “a joke”.

Protests broke out in the tiny East African nation on April 25, after Nkurunziza announced that he was going run for  a third term, which many saw as a violation of a peace treaty signed in 2005, which ended an ethnically fueled civil war that killed about 300,000 people..

At least 20 people have been killed in the violence, with tens of thousands others fleeing to neighboring countries Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic of Congo.

Pictures emerged on twitter showing jubilant opposition supporters celebrating around the presidential office after the coup was announced. The internet was later disabled across the whole country.

The leader of opposition, however, said  he knew nothing about the coup.

“I am discovering it now on the radio, just like you,” Former rebel militia leader and presidential hopeful Agathon Rwasa told IBTimes from the capital Bujumbura.

“Now, we will have to see what happens next.”