Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza made his first public appearance Sunday since his return from Tanzania amid a foiled coup against his government.
Nkurunziza sneaked into the country after a Wednesday military coup organised by his former chief of intelligence, Maj Gen Godefroid Niyombare.
The coup failed and three senior army officers were arrested before being produced in court on Saturday (18 people in total).
The coup attempt came after weeks of protests against Mr Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term.
Nkurunziza who entered Bujumbura triumphantly yesterday, addressed press today at the presidential palace in the capital Bujumbura.
He told press that he had a conference call with the leaders of Uganda (President Yoweri Museveni) and Kenya (Uhuru Kenyatta) to discuss the Al Shabaab threat.
Nkurunziza says they have got intelligence there is an impending Al Shabaab attack on Burundi, Uganda and Kenya.
The UK Foreign Office and the US state department say Al Shabab has threatened to carry out attacks in Burundi because of its role in the African Union-led peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Nkurunziza is his address, didn’t talk of the coup or his third term in office but US has already advised its citizens to leave the country because of the deteriorating political situation.
Nkurunziza in a veiled message threatens Kagame with war
Nkurunziza in an earlier message blamed the riots that have resumed in Bujumbura on “outside forces” dragging Rwanda into the picture.
After the failed coup, civil society reorganised people to return to the streets and protest Nkurunziza’s third term bid.
They were met with teargas after which the President warned that he will retaliate against anyone who launches an attack on Burundi.
In a Kirundi language message published on his personal website on May 15, Nkurunziza thanked loyalist forces for crushing a coup attempt.
He warned demonstrators to end their protests, linking them to the mutineers who launched the putsch.
He began by praising God, then castigated those who tried to overthrow a “government elected by the people”.
He quoted a Kirundi proverb saying that when you see a man destroying his home, you lend him a panga.
He reaffirmed that all government offices are now fully functional in every part of the country.
He ended by warning all trouble causers that he will take trouble to their doorstep.
“Whoever wants to set Burundi at fire won’t be able to have one step inside, we will take at his side and finish it there,” he said in what is being termed as a reference to Rwanda.
Analysts say the phrase that trouble causers “will not be allowed (inside) to set fire” to the country, and that any war will be fought on the other side of the border, is a veiled warning to Rwanda President, Paul Kagame, who recently asked Nkurunziza not to impose himself on Burundians.
“If your own citizens tell you we don’t want you to lead us, how do you say ‘I am staying whether you want me or not’?” President Paul Kagame of Rwanda said of Nkurunziza while speaking to China Central TV special contributor, James Chau, at the 45th St Gallen Symposium in Switzerland on May 8, 2015.
“It is not just about the 3rd term. It is about service delivery,” Kagame pointed out, saying Nkurunziza has not delivered much which he termed as a “serious problem” that has sparked off protests.
At the height of protests, Rwanda Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, warned that anti-Kigali rebels in the DRC (Hutu-dominated Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by the French acronym FDLR) were slipping across the border into Burundi might even get involved directly in the continued unrest in the country.
Nkurunziza alleges Rwanda was involved in coup?
Kagame met Nkurunziza in the town of Huye near border of Burundi last month in what many termed as a sign of reconciliation.
The duo hasn’t been at the best of terms their relationship since last year when Nkurunziza allegedly refused to join a conspiracy against Tanzania President, Jakaya Kikwete.
Yet the same Kikwete urged Nkurunziza to respect the constitution and the Arusha agreements that ended the central African nation’s long civil war in 2000.
Nkurunziza has had fears that the Tutsi leadership in Rwanda was against his Hutu leadership in Burundi.
At the time of the Burundi coup, Burundi military officers were in Kigali attending a military symposium ruling out the possibility of Rwanda’s involvement.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader from the Hutu majority and a born-again Christian, believes he ascended to the presidency with divine backing.
We will discuss the Rwanda-Burundi stand off extensively in our next article.