UPDATE – Nkurunziza says returned to Burundi


Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza announced on Thursday that he had returned to his home country amid confusion in the Central African country.

“President Pierre Nkurunziza is in Burundi,” the presidency’s Twitter account said.

Moments later, Nkurunziza himself tweeted: “I am in Burundi. I greet the army and police for their patriotism. I greet the Burundian people, especially for their patience.”

Nkurunziza was in Tanzania on Wednesday for an East African Community (EAC) summit on the political crisis in his country when his former intelligence chief Godefroid Niyombare appeared on local media to announce that the president had been removed from power.

The Burundian leader tried to return home on Wednesday, hours after Niyombare’s announcement but he was prevented from entering the country by the backers of the attempted coup leader who sealed Burundi’s borders.

Tanzanian State House spokesman Salvatory Rweyemamu told Anadolu Agency that the Burundian leader had left Dar es Salaam where the summit was held.

“I can confirm that President Nkurunziza has left Tanzania,” Rweyemamu told Anadolu Agency.

However, the official declined to say where Nkurunziza went after he left Tanzania.

“Where he went to or where he is now is not Tanzania’s concern,” he said. “You can quote me on two things; one that President Nkurunziza left, and second that he is not in Tanzania,” he asserted.

In the EAC summit, the leaders of member states Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda on Wednesday condemned the coup attempt and demanded the postponement of the country’s presidential elections, which are slated for June.

The summit, which was devoted to Burundi’s simmering political situation and which was originally scheduled to kick off at 12:30pm, was delayed for hours after news emerged of the attempted coup.

Nkurunziza did not show up in the summit despite having been presumed to be in Tanzania for the meeting.

Answering a question on why Nkurunziza was not seen at the summit room, Rweyemamu said the Burundian leader had left before the meeting started.

“He left earlier, he didn’t even attend the summit,” he said.

Burundi has been rocked by protests since late April, when the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy named incumbent Nkurunziza – in power since 2005 – its candidate for June presidential polls.

The country’s opposition says Nkurunziza does not have the right to seek a third term, citing Burundi’s constitution, which limits the number of terms a president can serve to two.