Unrest in Burundi Has Led to a Possible Coup Announced by Former Head of Intelligence

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coup in burundi“President Pierre Nkurunziza is removed from office.”

When Burundi’s former head of intelligence, Major General Godefroid Niyombare, uttered those words in a broadcast on state radio in the country’s capital of Bujumbura on Wednesday, both fear and excitement were sent surging throughout the region.

Unrest has plagued the small country for quite some time and tensions seemed to reach a boiling point after President Nkurunziza announced he would be seeking a third term in office despite the country’s constitution only allowing for two terms.

Some argue that his first term in office shouldn’t count because he was appointed by parliament rather than elected. Either way, the idea of him remaining in power for another term caused protesters to fill the streets and has now resulted in a possible coup.

“We call on political leaders to come together to rethink how the country can be governed and how elections can be organized soon,” Niyombare added during the broadcast.

It’s a message that directly contradicts the tweet sent out by Nkurunziza’s office as officials insist that any word of a coup is false and unsupported.

“There is no coup in Burundi,” officials said on Twitter while also referring to news of a coup as a “joke.”

Nkurunziza is currently not in the country as he departed for neighboring Tanzania to attend a regional summit convened to discuss the crisis in Burundi, Bloomberg reports.

While the claims of a coup haven’t been confirmed, protesters were quick to celebrate the unofficial announcement as it brought an end to the gunfire and teargas being fired at them by police.

“But soon after the announcement, police officers who had been clashing with protesters in downtown Bujumbura, the capital, began withdrawing, while demonstrators began honking car horns, taking photographs and cheering,” The New York Times reported. “A popular radio station that had been shut down by the government went back on the air.”

People greet soldiers as they celebrate in Bujumbura, after a general said he was dismissing President Pierre Nkurunziza for violating the constitution (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
People greet soldiers as they celebrate in Bujumbura, after a general said he was dismissing President Pierre Nkurunziza for violating the constitution (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

But there are fears that the coup announcement could have a negative rippling effect on other issues in the region.

“The attempted coup may trigger factional fighting between rival ethnic groups in the military and police, increasing the probability of a civil war,” Bloomberg reported after talking to principal Africa analyst at IHS Country Risk in London, Robert Besseling.

According to Besseling, overpopulated rural areas and the camps of internally placed people will serve as hot spots for possible outbreaks of violence.

He added that the country’s capital will also be at a great risk of housing ethnic fighting.

Other foreign leaders have expressed fears of what could happen if tensions in the country aren’t quelled and rebel groups abandon the very agreements that helped bring an end to a civil war a decade ago. That war caused roughly 300,000 fatalities.

In addition to putting the region’s citizens in great danger, it could also have detrimental effects on the economy.

“It also has the potential to destabilize the Great Lakes region that includes the Democratic Republic of Conga, the world’s biggest source of cobalt and Africa’s top copper producer,” Bloomberg reports.

It could all spell an ironically tragic turn of events where the very man who was placed in office as a part of the Arusha peace agreement to end the civil war may also be at the root of the resurgence of another one.

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