BUJUMBURA. – Leader of the coup attempt in Burundi General Godefroid Niyombare has gone on the run after escaping capture by troops loyal to the central African nation’s president, a senior police official told AFP yesterday.
“General Niyombare has evaded us but we know where he is hiding,” the official said, adding he was believed to have fled to a southern district of the capital Bujumbura.
Niyombare had earlier yesterday told AFP by telephone he was surrendering and that loyalist troops were closing in on him.
“We have decided to surrender. I hope they won’t kill us,” he said.
The senior police officer said three other pro-coup generals had been detained.
The loyalist police official said they were still alive so they could be put on trial.
The coup leaders’ spokesman Zenon Ndabaneze was speaking to AFP confirming that the putschists had decided to surrender when loyalist troops arrested him, deputy coup leader Cyrille Ndayirukiye and another senior figure among the mutineers.
“We decided to give ourselves up. We have laid down our arms. We have called the security ministry to tell them we no longer have any arms,” Ndabaneze said, seconds before he could be heard being arrested.
“There will be no foul play. We won’t kill them, we want to keep them so they can be judged,” the police official told AFP after the arrests.
The presidency meanwhile announced that Nkurunziza – who was abroad when the coup was declared — was back in the capital and poised to address the nation.
Nkurunziza was in neighbouring Tanzania for regional talks on Wednesday when the coup was launched, in a culmination of weeks of violent street protests over his bid to cling to power.
Opposition and rights groups insist that it is unconstitutional for Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005, to run for more than two terms.
The president, however, argues his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority and born-again Christian, believes he ascended to the presidency with divine backing.
More than 25 people have been killed and scores wounded since late April, when Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party – which has been accused of intimidating the opposition and arming its own militia -nominated Nkurunziza to stand for re-election in June 26 polls.
It remains unclear, however, how many have died since the launch of the coup, and unrest could continue – with civil society activists calling for a resumption of demonstrations after the failure of the coup. – AFP.