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The East African : May 17th 2015
10 THE BURUNDI CRISIS 48 hours after it started, the coup was over TURN FROM 9 Wednesday, the coup plotters were making little headway in their negotiations with the fence-sitters and loyalists. On the other hand the loy- alists, boosted by the regional condemnation of the coup, had upped their propaganda. Mr Nyaitwe laughed off the coup attempt as a “joke” and said President Nkurunziza was, in fact, on his way home from Dar es Salaam. Panicked, the coup plotters ordered the airport and the land borders closed immediately. The small airport near Lake Tanganyika was quickly emptied and commercial air- lines called off their flights as putschist soldiers announced they were finally in control of the facility. That announcement, the failing light, and memories of the shooting down, in 1994 at Kanombe Airport in Kigali, of a presidential jet in which President Cyprien Ntaryami- ra was killed alongside his Rwandan counterpart, convinced the loyalists to call off the president’s planned return. Mr Nkurunziza and his en- tourage returned to the Serena Hotel in Dar es Salaam for an unscheduled check-in for the night. By nightfall, the two rival groups of soldiers had played out to a draw but the loyalists retained control of the presidency, had the regional condemnation of the coup in their jacket pockets and, crucially, still controlled the national radio and television, the only one that could still transmit across the country. Shortly after midnight, armed men attacked the two private radio stations in Bujumbura that had broadcast the coup announcements. By Thursday morning, the coup plotters still didn’t have the mass support of the army they had been hoping for and, without the private radio stations, they found that they had no voice, either. Meanwhile, General Ni- yongabo took to RNTB, the state broadcaster, to announce that the coup had been defeated. Over at Bujumbura International Airport, the head of security at the facility had received a telephone call asking him to throw his weight behind the coup but he had politely declined. Now he announced that the airport was open. The loyalists Desperate to regain the propaganda initiative, the soldiers behind the coup launched an attack on the RNTB facility but they were held off with casualties, and one of their tanks destroyed. The loyalists pressed their advantage, resuming transmission to announce that the coup had failed and the president was on his way home. Desperate, a few soldiers involved in the coup began to surrender to the loyalists. In Dar es Salaam mean- while, Nkurunziza was quietly whisked out of the Serena Hotel and, Tanzanian security sources say, flown to Kigoma Airport, a tiny strip of asphalt south of Burundi on Thursday afternoon. By this time loyalist forces were in control of Bujumbura Airport but it was deemed too risky to fly there. Instead, a decision was taken to move President Nkurunziza to his hometown, Ngozi, in the north of Burundi, and stage resistance among friendly forces if need be. Sources gave two varying accounts of how he entered the country. A Tanzanian source said a military helicopter airlifted Nkurunziza into the country, while a diplomatic source in Burundi said a heavily armed convoy had been sent ahead of the arrival of the aircraft and had driven the 300 kilometres to Ngozi under the cover of darkness. By the time a tweet, de- SURRENDER The EastAfrican NEWS MAY 16-22,2015 MAJ-GEN GODEFROID NIYOMBARE’S LAST CALL TO A NEWS AGENCY: “We have decided to surrender. I hope they won’t kill us.” leted and then reposted with the spelling corrected, was released from Nkurunziza’s account on Thursday night announcing he was back in Burundi and in charge of the country, the coup was all over, bar the shooting. In the swinging pendulum of power, a hash tag, #WhereIsNkurunziza had emerged on Twitter on Thursday night but by Friday morning, as the president made a triumphant re-emergence in his hometown in front of cheering crowds, it was the coup plotters who had become the hunted. It did not take long for them to be found in the small capital. Coup spokesman Venon Ndabaneze was on the telephone with a reporter from Agence France Presse news agency confirming his intention to surrender when loyalists troops turned up and arrested him and deputy coup leader Ndayirukiye. Maj-Gen Niyombare’s last act, on Friday morning, was also to telephone the news agency to report his capitulation. “We have decided to sur- render,” he told AFP on the telephone, adding that troops loyal to President Nkurunziza were approaching him. “I hope they won’t kill us,” he added. Then the line went dead. Forty-eight hours after it began, the coup was over. In downtown Bujumbura, the protestors slowly started emerging back onto the streets and re-erecting barricades. It was a dramatic week in Burundi but the more things had changed, the more they had remained the same. Additional reporting by Mkinga Mkinga, Katare Mbashiru, Moses Havyarimana, and agencies.
May 10th 2015
May 24th 2015