Crisis in Burundi escalates

Protesters, who are against President Pierre Nkurunziza"s decision to run for a third term, gesture in front of a burning barricade in Bujumbura, Burundi May 14, 2015. Photo/Reuters
Protesters, who are against President Pierre Nkurunziza"s decision to run for a third term, gesture in front of a burning barricade in Bujumbura, Burundi May 14, 2015. Photo/Reuters

THE crisis in Burundi escalated for a second day on Thursday, as President Pierre Nkurunziza continued to seek refugee in Tanzania with chaos unfolding in his country.

Nkurunziza, who was unable to go back to Burundi on Wednesday night following a coup attempt, urged Burundians to remain calm, saying his government was in control.

"We ask all the people of Burundi to stay calm in the face of the impostor. The situation is under control and the constitutional order has been safeguarded," Nkurunziza posted on Twitter.

Media reports indicated heavy gunfire in Bujumbura, as soldiers loyal to the besieged President sought to regain control.

Reuters reported that the head of Burundi's army, General Prime Niyongabo, said in a statement broadcast on state radio, "The coup attempt failed, loyal forces are still controlling all strategic points".

The radio also broadcast a message from President Nkurunziza condemning the coup and claiming those loyal to him had taken control.

"I thank soldiers who are putting things in order, and I forgive any soldier who decides to surrender," he said.

Reports indicated there was heavy gunfire around the state broadcasting headquarters as rival forces tried to take control.

On Wednesday, while Nkurunziza joined other regional heads of state in Tanzania, a section of the army announced that his government had been dismissed.

The group then took control of the airport and later forced the plane carrying the President from Tanzania to go back after it was denied entry.

Maj Gen Godefroid Niyombareh announced that a national salvation committee had been set up to run the country but Nkurunziza's aide Willy Niyamitwe dismissed it as "a joke".

Witnesses told Reuters that two private radio stations and a television station were attacked by unknown men in police uniforms.

The two stations were among those that carried Niyombare's announcement on Wednesday that he had sacked Nkurunziza.

The crisis in Burundi was triggered by Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in office, claiming that he had only served one elective term as he was selected by parliament for his first term.

The unrest began on April 26 and has led to the deaths of more than 20 people, with the President rejecting calls to postpone next month's election.