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Military General In Burundi Claims Coup Against Its President

A wounded protester is detained by police as demonstrators try to march to the town center of Bujumbura, Burundi, on Wednesday.
Gildas Ngingo
A wounded protester is detained by police as demonstrators try to march to the town center of Bujumbura, Burundi, on Wednesday.

A military general in Burundi has declared a coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza.

According to The Associated Press, Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare read a statement on radio, saying Nkurunziza had violated the constitution by seeking a third term in the central African nation.

This puts Niyombare on the side of protesters, who have for three weeks now demonstrated against Nkurunziza's continued rule.

In a statement, Nkurunziza, who is currently at a conference in Tanzania, acknowledged an attempted coup but said it had been "foiled."

The men who made the coup attempt, the presidency said, are now wanted by the country's military.

The BBC reports that despite those claims there is still unrest in the capital Bujumbura:

"The BBC's Maud Jullien in Bujumbura says there is gunfire as protesters escorted by the army head to the city centre.

"Soldiers loyal to the president have been shooting to protect the offices of the state broadcaster. There are some reports that forces supporting the coup are now trying to enter the building and are meeting resistance.

"Our correspondent says at least three people were killed in the capital's Kabondo district but the circumstances of their deaths remain unclear."

The New York Times has a bit of background on the situation:

"Hundreds of protesters have been demonstrating in the capital for more than two weeks against the president's bid for a third term in office. Violence surrounding the protests has left at least 20 people dead, and more than 50,000 people have fled to neighboring countries to escape the turmoil, the United Nations estimates.

"A witness said that the protesters reached the city center for the first time on Wednesday, and that the police used live ammunition and tear gas against them.

"The protesters say that Mr. Nkurunziza, who took office in 2005 and was re-elected in 2010, cannot run in the presidential election next month because the constitution allows only one renewal of a president's mandate. Mr. Nkurunziza's supporters say his first term should not count toward the constitutional limit because he was not directly elected in 2005; rather, he took office as part of the Arusha peace agreement to end the country's long civil war."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.