Burundi's Interior Minister Denies Coup
A top Burundian official is dismissing claims of a coup by a renegade general.
Interior Minister Edourd Nduwimana tells VOA's Central African Service that forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza remain in control of the presidential palace, state radio and television, and the main airport in the capital, Bujumbura.
He says the president is back in Burundi after traveling to Tanzania for a regional summit Wednesday, though he did not specify Mr. Nkurunziza's location.
Earlier, General Godefroid Niyombare told several private Burundian radio stations that the president had been dismissed and that he will form a temporary committee, of which he is the president, to restore national harmony and unity.
“Given the necessity to preserve the country's integrity … President Pierre Nkurunziza is dismissed from his functions,” Niyombare read in a statement on Bonesha FM radio.
Niyombare made his declaration to reporters at a military barracks in Bujumbura, and was surrounded by several other senior officers in the army and police, including a former defense minister, Reuters reported.
Tens of thousands of Burundians, including soldiers, took to the streets to celebrate the announcement. Airports and all borders are closed, according to a report from a private radio station.
WATCH: Burundians celebrate after coup announcement
The five-nation East African Community has condemned the coup attempt.
The EAC, which also includes leaders from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, is holding a summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to discuss the situation.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, is participating in meetings on the sidelines of the EAC ministerial in order to express U.S. concern about the situation in Burundi as well as U.S. support for the Arusha Agreement and political dialogue among all parties to ensure peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.
Click to enlarge
Burundi has been rocked by protests since April 26, when President Nkurunziza announced he will run for a third term. Clashes between police and protesters have killed at least 14 people and injured more than 200.
There were more clashes between police and protesters Wednesday before the coup attempt, which follows weeks of tension since Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term.
At least 14 people have been killed and more than 200 injured in protests since the president's announcement weeks ago.
Critics say a third term would be unconstitutional, while the president and his 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 the president's favor.
The officer at the head of Wednesday's coup attempt, General Niyombare, is a respected figure who was fired from his position as Burundi's intelligence chief in February.
France has requested the U.N. Security Council hold emergency talks on Burundi. VOA's Margaret Besheer says those talks are not likely until later Wednesday or Thursday morning.
Some material for this report came from AP, Reuters and AFP.