A day after Major General Godefroid Niyombare (pictured below) declared a coup against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, soldiers belonging to different rival groups are said to be fighting for control of capital Bujumbura, reports the BBC.
On Wednesday, Face2Face Africa reported:
In response to Nkurunziza’s refusal to step down, Gen. Niyombare and his “national salvation committee” took over the airwaves on Wednesday to declare that the President has been fired.
“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.
“The masses vigorously and tenaciously reject President Nkurunziza’s third-term mandate… President Pierre Nkurunziza has been relieved of his duties. The government is overthrown.”
Hours later, reports came out that Nkurunziza had left the summit he was attending in Tanzania in order to reclaim his country. The embattled President also released a statement calling the coup “imaginary.”
By Thursday, though, it is still unclear where exactly Nkurunziza is; some have indicated that he remains in Tanzania, while others say that he attempted to return to Burundi but could not land because the airport was closed.
Still, President Nkurunziza managed to release a message through RTBN radio station, saying, “I thank soldiers who are putting things in order, and I forgive any soldier who decides to surrender.”
But his message did nothing to quell fighting that went on late in to the night.
Another radio station, Radio Publique Africaine, where Gen. Niyombare delivered his coup announcement, was burned down overnight, and “heavy fighting” is said to continue at RTBN as different factions reportedly fight for control of it, with one employee telling AFP, “We are being attacked. It is very heavy. The transmitter has been cut. We cannot transmit.”
Whoever wins control of RTBN is significant because it is the only radio station that continues to broadcast outside of the capital.
Meanwhile, a senior military source insists that those who are loyal to the President still have control of the airport, radio station, presidential palace, and Bujumbura center.
But coup leaders say otherwise, declaring that “virtually the entire city” of Bujumbura is under their control.
In fact, coup spokesman Venon Ndabaneze also told the AFP, “The soldiers who are being deployed are on our side.”
Speaking on the current state of Bujumbura, journalist Ruth Nesoba explains that “sporadic gunfire is still being heard in parts of Bujumbura and many business premises have remained closed this morning.
“Roads have been barricaded and only a few vehicles are on the empty streets, mainly emergency service vehicles attending to those injured in the on-and-off shooting.”
Burundi was thrown into chaos last month, after President Nkurunziza announced that he was running for a third term against the rules of the Constitution.
In fact, Gen. Niyombare, who used to be a close ally to the President, was fired in February, after only serving three months as intelligence chief.
Niyombare was reportedly dismissed because he advised against President Nkurunziza’s third-term aspirations.