Burundi army General Godefroid Niyombare says they have overthrown President Pierre Nkurunziza.
General Godefroid Niyombare, a former Cndd-Fdd rebel commander has declared himself the interim President of Burundi.
He told the press in the capital Bujumbura that a military committee sat and denounced the leadership of Nkurunziza.
In Uganda, Dr Milton Obote, the first Prime Minister and President was overthrown by his army commander, Idi Amin, in 1971 while on a visit to Singapore to attend a Commonwealth conference.
Nkurunziza whose pursuit of a third term sparked protests that have persisted for three weeks, is currently in Dar es Salaam Tanzania attending a meeting of EAC Heads of State on Burundi crisis.
Meanwhile at home, the army have moved and occupied the national broadcaster and national radio in the capital.
Witnesses are reporting rapid gunfire at the national radio by a group of army officers that have just seized power.
Coup leader Niyombare speaks
“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,” Gen Niyombare has announced on state radio.
“The government is dissolved, permanent secretaries of ministries will ensure day-to-day business,” Gen Niyombare continued.
“The masses have decided to take into their own hands the destiny of the nation to remedy this unconstitutional environment into which Burundi has been plunged.”
“The masses vigorously and tenaciously reject president Nkurunziza’s third term mandate in accordance with the constitution and the Arusha accord. President Pierre Nkurunziza has been relieved of his duties. The government is overthrown,” affirmed Gen Niyombare, a former ambassador to Rwanda.
He also told reporters in Burundi’s capital, that a national salvation committee has been set up to run the country.
Citizens take to the streets to celebrate
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in the capital Bujumbura to celebrate reports of a coup.
Burundi media says Niyombare was sacked by Nkurunziza early in the year casting a shadow of doubt on how much support he can garner from the army chiefs.
Niyombare who worked in Burundi secret service now says he is working with civil society and others on forming transitional government.
More Burundi coup updates:
The national radio station RTNB is still under the control of forces loyal to President Nkurunziza.
At least three have been killed on the streets of Kabondo district in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura amid heavy gunfire as protesters, escorted by the army, head to the city centre following a coup declaration.
Burundi’s presidential spokesman, Willy Nyamitwe, has told the BBC Great Lakes service that rumours of a coup “are unfounded and were spread over Twitter”.
Nyamitwe claimed security had been tightened at the national radio station.
Military coups in Burundi
In out May 2, story titled: “Burundi: Grenade kills 3, military coup predicted (http://www.theinsider.ug/burundi-grenade-kills-3-military-coup-predicted/)”, we quoted analysts who predicted a military coup in Burundi and now it has come to pass.
Frank Charnas, Africa analyst for global security consultancy Max Security, said the situation has echoes of Burkina Faso, where former president Blaise Compaore was forced out of government by the military last year after attempting to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule.
Charnas told NewsWeek that the fact the military are protecting the protesters does not bode well for Nkurunziza and could presuppose a military coup.
Dr Charles Laurie, head of Africa at international risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft, also said the president’s apparent reneging of the Arusha peace agreement, signed in 2000 to bring an end to the civil war and which stipulates a maximum of two presidential terms, could create further regional discord.
The last Burundian Civil War lasting from 1993 to 2005 was the result of long standing ethnic divisions between the Hutu and the Tutsi tribes in Burundi.
The conflict began following the first multi-party elections in the country since independence from Belgium in 1962, and is seen as formally ending with the swearing in of Pierre Nkurunziza in August 2005.
The estimated death toll stands at 300,000 killed.
A military coup d’état took place in Burundi on 25 July 1996.
In the midst of the Burundi Civil War, former president Pierre Buyoya (a Tutsi) deposed Hutu President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya.
According to Amnesty International, in the weeks following the coup, more than 6,000 people were killed in the country.
This was Buyoya’s second successful coup, having overthrown Jean-Baptiste Bagaza in 1987.