Burundi in crisis: Army General says President deposed, government dismisses coup

VENTURES AFRICA – Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has rebuffed the dismissal of his government announced by a senior ranking army officer, Major General Godefroid Niyombare. Niyombare, the president’s former Intelligence chief, announced this morning that he was dismissing President Pierre Nkurunziza for violating the constitution by seeking a third term, and was working with civil society groups to form a transitional government. But his statement was immediately dismissed as “a joke” by the president’s media adviser.

Major General Godefroid Niyombare was fired by Nkurunziza as intelligence chief in February for discouraging the president from running for a third term. French news network RFI reported then that the president was warned by his one-time close ally that seeking another term could plunge the country into chaos, an advise that the president has now officially rejected. 
In late April, Nkurunziza announced his decision to run for a third term in office triggering widespread protests that his candidacy violates the country’s constitution – which mandates a maximum of two term limits. The president has so far refused local and international pressure to back down from contesting, arguing that in his first term, he was elected by MPs, not through a general election.Nkurunziza’s dogged desire for a third term has angered Major General Niyombare and several other senior ranking officers. At a military barracks, surrounded by ranking officers in the army and police, he told reporters; “regarding President Nkurunziza’s arrogance and defiance of the international community which advised him to respect the constitution and Arusha peace agreement, the committee for the establishment of the national concord decide: President Nkurunziza is dismissed, his government is dismissed too.”The action of the Niyombare-led officers has drawn wide praise from many of the Burundians who have been protesting the president’s third term bid.
Reuters say the General’s announcement drew crowds of people onto the streets of Burundi’s capital, cheering and singing, as soldiers surrounded the state broadcaster building. However, the situation is still very unclear if the General’s forces have taken over power. The South African Foreign Ministry, which is monitoring the situation in Burundi closely, said it was too early to determine whether the move amounted to a coup.President Nkurunziza is currently in Tanzania meeting with East African leaders and a top official from South Africa to discuss the crisis that is threatening to throw the country into another war and further destabilize the region. The fate of those talks are currently unknown given the new development. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned that the crisis was heading towards a “worst case scenario” that could see 300,000 people fleeing. At the moment, over 50,000 people have fled to neighbouring states.