Early Reports of a Coup in Burundi

In a season of testing for democracy in Africa, recent unrest in Burundi has been escalating as President Pierre Nkurunziza’s party recently nominated him for  third term.  The nation’s high court, under great duress according to some reports, rubber stamped the constitutional question of the candidacy.

Now BBC is reporting that Major General Godefroid Niyombareh has announced that senior military members have dismissed the president while he is traveling in Tanzania and have set up a committee to run the country.  The Burundian president’s people are dismissing the claims. Soldiers have surrounded the state broadcasting building and there are reports of once angry protesters cheering.

If true, a positive outcome is possible and was made precedent earlier this year in Burkina Faso.  There, the military stepped early when violence began to escalate as two-term president Blaise Compaore tested the water for a third run.  Old ethnic tensions and the possibility of bad blood resurfacing makes the potential for violence in Burundi much more volatile.

Freefire blog has covered Burundi closely.  For background on Burundi, read Olivia McCoy and Aaron Kliegman’s coverage here.  The context for the trends in the battle for democracy in Africa is like everwhere else; As a democracy begins and parties form, the hope of meaningful representation drives people to political participation.  When such hopes are eroded either by corrupt elections or unlimited term limits, a turn to violence tends to ensue.