May 20, 2015
On May 13, a failed military coup attempt was led by Major General Godefroid Niyombare in Burundi in an effort to stop President Nkurunzizda’s bid to seek a third term in the upcoming June elections. The Burundi constitution sets a two-term limit for the president. However, Nkurunzizda argues that his first term should not count since he was appointed by parliament and not elected, and the Burundi constitutional court agreed. The coup was announced on Wednesday over the radio while the President was out of the country; violence and uncertainty among the citizens of Burundi followed. However, the coup received widespread support in Burundi, as many agree that Nkurunzizda’s seeking reelection is illegal.
Niyombare is a former ally of President Nkurunzizda and claimed that he did not seek to hold on to power following the coup, but merely to work for “the restoration of national unity and the resumption of the electoral process in a peaceful and fair environment.” Protests have been ongoing since Nkurunzizda’s acceptance of his nomination as a candidate on April 25 and at least 22 people have died in clashes between the police and protestors since late April. However, the President of Burundi declared that peace had returned last Friday, only two days after the coup.
Whether ethnically motivated violence will follow is of concern due to residual tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis, and may be determined by how the president responds to the failed coup attempt. The government of Burundi arrested 17 people on Saturday in connection with the coup attempt. Yesterday, the leaders of the failed coup were arrested, and will be charged with mutiny in a military court. The president has fired three cabinet members, but denies that this is linked to the coup. Regarding the humanitarian impact, the U.N. reports that over the past three weeks of civil unrest more that 100,000 people have fled Burundi to Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.