US urges non-violence as army chief says coup has failed

Thursday May 14 2015

Men hold Burundi's flag as people take to the streets of Bujumbura to celebrate following the radio announcement by Major General Godefroid Niyombare that President Nkurunziza was overthrown on May 13, 2015. PHOTO | JENNIFER HUXTA |

The United States on Wednesday endorsed East African Community leaders' call for peaceful, democratic elections in Burundi in keeping with the Arusha Agreement that ended a bloody civil war 15 years ago.

Saying it is "deeply concerned" about the uncertain situation in Burundi, the State Department urged all parties "to immediately end the violence, to exercise restraint, and above all to prioritise peace in Burundi."

The statement also implied that the US is opposed to a military overthrow of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

The US called for all sides to "respect the rule of law, including those provisions of Burundian law regarding civilian rule."

Loyalist forces under army chief of staff Maj Gen Prime Niyongabo, say the coup threat has been neutralised and that they are currently hunting down the coup plotters.

"We are going to make sure that the army stays united and we will do our best to capture those who have declared a coup against President Nkurunziza," he said on national radio, moments after Mr Nkurunzinza said on his twitter handle that the “situation is under control”.


But the supporters of the coup have dismissed the statement by the loyalist forces saying they are in control of the capital, Bujumbura as heavy fighting between the rival forces heats up over the control of airwaves.

Media houses have been targeted as REMA radio and Television which is believed to be owned by the ruling party was on fire late in the evening with unknown group of people.

"We condemn the attacks on media houses and they should let the media operate freely,” said Alexandre Niyungeko, the chair of Burundi Journalist Union.

“The army says the have put security everywhere but I don’t know if the media houses were attacked by pro coup or anti coup.”

The media has now become the target in Burundi as pro-coup and anti-coup forces struggle to control the capital.

READ: Burundi's journalists, activists bemoan mounting harassment

"We didnt want a bloodshed yesterday since it was still the first day but what we can say is that soon we are going to attack the premises [private media houses]," said one of the Generals.

African Public Radio (RPA) and Renaissance TV were attacked with grenades last night as heavy shelling was heard in the Burundi's capital last night.

RPA had for 3 weeks been closed by the government for allegedly promoting violence in the country. The private radio was closed just when protests broke out in Bujumbura a month ago.

Washington, which ranks as Burundi's largest donor, has previously criticised President Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in office. That move carries a significant risk of violence, the US had warned.

The Arusha Agreement states that a president's tenure will be limited to two terms.

"It is essential for all Burundians – both military and civilian – to uphold the spirit of this agreement and reject violence," the US said on Wednesday.

The State Department added that it will deny US visas to "those who participate in, plan, or order violence against the civilian population."

Since protests broke out a month ago, at least 15 people have lost their lives.

Facts on Coup leader

 The 46-year-old coup leader was once an ally of President Nkurunziza.
 Former rebel CNDD-FDD commander
 First ethnic Hutu army chief - a significant step in reconciliation efforts
 A negotiator in peace talks with last rebel group FNL
 Oversaw Burundi's deployment to Somalia as part of African force
 Served as an ambassador to Kenya
 Dismissed as intelligence chief in February, three months after his appointment
 His dismissal came days after he advised against the third-term bid

(Source: BBC)