U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned “attempts to oust elected governments by military force” Ambition and ideology, it seems, got the best of Burundian coup plotter Godefroid Niyombare. After nearly 36 hours of chaos and tension, in which a military force divided between those loyal to embattled President Pierre Nkurunziza and soldiers supporting his ouster battled for control of the capital’s airport and media assets, the former intelligence chief was forced to concede that his coup had failed. “We have decided to surrender,” Niyombare told the French news agency AFP in Burundi. “I hope they won’t kill us.” Niyombare is still at large, but the police have detained three other coup leaders. “We decided to give ourselves up,” the coup leaders’ spokesman, Zenon Ndabaneze, told AFP by telephone just seconds before his arrest. “We have laid down our arms. We have called the security ministry to tell them we no longer have any arms.”
The failed coup capped nearly two weeks of unrest in the capital, Bujumbura, as citizens protested the president’s announcement that he would seek a third term in office, despite a constitutionally mandated two-term limit. Elections are scheduled for June 26, though the African Union, citing unrest, has suggested they be delayed. President Nkurunziza and his supporters argue that he has the right to run again because he was not elected for his first term in office, but appointed by parliament. His elevation to the presidency in 2005 came at the conclusion of a devastating 13-year civil war. The hard-won peace accord, negotiated in part by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, is also clear about term limits. Nkurunziza’s defiance threatens the fragile peace between the President’s ethnic Hutu majority and the country’s Tutsi minority, raising the specter of a return to a war with echoes of the genocidal mayhem that tore neighboring Rwanda apart in 1994. Tens of thousands of Burundians, mostly Tutsi, have already taken refuge in Rwanda.