UN Security Council condemns Burundi coup

UN Security Council calls for the ‘swift return of law’ and credible elections, as rival factions clash in capital.

The UN Security Council has condemned both those behind a coup attempt in Burundi and President Pierre Nkurunziza after weeks of violence in the southeast African country.

In a unanimous statement on Thursday, the 15-member council said it condemned both those who “facilitate violence” against civilians and those who seek to seize power by unlawful means.

The Security Council has been divided on how to address the Burundi crisis, with Russia and China arguing that the dispute over Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term is a constitutional matter that should be resolved internally.

In its statement, the council called for “the swift return of the rule of law, and the holding of credible elections”.

Burundi was thrown into turmoil when General Godefroid Niyombare, a powerful former intelligence chief, announced by radio on Wednesday that President Pierre Nkurunziza had been overthrown in a coup.

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The US State Department also issued a statement saying it still considers Nkurunziza the country’s legitimate president.

The condemnation of the coup by the international body came as supporters and opponents of Burundi’s Nkurunziza clashed near the state broadcaster’s headquarters in the capital Bujumbura.

The fighting came a day after Niyombare, the country’s former intelligence chief, said he had deposed Nkurunziza, but that claim was rebuked by Army Chief of Staff General Prime Niyongabo who said the coup attempt had failed.

Both the AFP and Reuters news agencies said they had since been contacted by the president’s office saying Nkurunziza had returned to Burundi, but his presence in the country could not be independently verified.

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Bujumbura, said those fighting at the national radio and TV compound include rival factions within the army.

“We understand there are several dozen heavily armed soldiers who are loyal to Nkurunziza and a greater number of soldiers outside supporting the coup,” he said.

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Supporters and opponents of the president were making competing claims about who controlled the area, Webb said, adding radio broadcasting networks were among the few means of information reporting on the current situation in the country.

“Radio stations have the ability to broadcast nationwide and are crucial at this stage. This is not a very developed country, it’s one of the poorest in Africa,” he said.

“Whoever controls the radio staions and says they are in power is probably 70 to 80 percent on the way to actually making that come true.”

Confusion remains over the whereabouts of Nkurunziza, whose attempt to return home from neighbouring Tanzania after the coup was announced was blocked by opponents who seized the airport.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people took to the streets in celebration after the coup announcement, shouting “Victory!” and sounding car horns.

The crisis has raised fears of a return to widespread violence in the country, which is still recovering from a brutal 13-year civil war that ended in 2006.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the conflict, marked by massacres between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsis, although there is no apparent ethnic dimension to the recent violence. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies