The president’s motorcade arrived in Burundi’s capital Friday after a coup attempt fizzled out, but tensions remained high as residents emerged from their homes again to protest the president’s bid for a third term.
An Associated Press reporter saw the convoy heading in the direction of the presidential palace. The reporter was unable to see if President Pierre Nkurunziza was aboard. But he is believed to have arrived from the northern Burundian city of Ngozi, where he is popular, according to a government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge such information.
Two senior army officers and a police general accused of taking part in the attempted coup have been arrested. Their leader, Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare, is the subject of a manhunt, presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho said Friday.
The streets of Bujumbura were mostly calm on Friday following fighting on Thursday between loyalist troops and forces supporting Niyombare, who announced the coup bid on Wednesday while Nkurunziza was in Tanzania for a meeting with regional leaders about unrest in his country.
Along a highway in the south of the country, there were many police checkpoints but otherwise life was going on as normal.
Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term had triggered protests over several days, with opponents saying it violated the Constitution as well as peace accords that ended a civil war here. At least 15 people were killed in the demonstrations that began on April 26, a day after the ruling party made Nkurunziza its presidential candidate.
Burundi’s presidency late Thursday saluted the police, who had tried to quell the demonstrations, for their patriotism.
The U.S. urged its citizens to leave Burundi and advised against traveling there. The U.S. Embassy said it was closed Friday amid the insecurity.
Burundi’s Constitution states a president can be popularly elected to one five-year term, renewable once. Nkurunziza was re-elected in 2010 but for his first term he was chosen by parliament, and he maintains he is consequently eligible for a third.
Burundi erupted into civil war in 1993 following the assassination of the country’s first ethnic Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye. That conflict, which split open longstanding ethnic tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi people, lasted until 2005.
Nkurunziza, a Hutu, took over as president and embarked on a campaign of ethnic reconciliation and economic rehabilitation. But a youth wing of his party has been accused human rights violations, including murdering political opponents.
Watchdog groups warned of the risk of civil unrest if Nkrurunziza insists on seeking a third term in June elections.
More than 105,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries, according to the U.N.SHOW MORE