We talked to Olivier Caslin, a journalist with ‘Young Africa’ magazine, who knows Burundi well, about the latest turbulence there.
There were manhunts this morning, already.
Olivier Péguy, euronews: “This country in the Great Lakes region has seen highly active opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza. Why do you think the attempted coup failed?”
Olivier Caslin: “The coup leader, General Godefroid Niyombare, might have had too high an opinion of himself. He thought he had the army behind him and then as the hours passed it turned out that there was really only a marginal group. There was a lot of negotiating between the two army factions, the loyalists on one side, those with the coup on the other, that lasted all Wednesday afternoon and late through Thursday, and it seems no agreement was reached. The loyalists took the opportunity to re-take private radio stations that the plotters had seized and so, since this morning, the fight has gone out of the coup.”
euronews: “Do you think this signals the end of the movement contesting the regime?”
Caslin: “No, it signals the end of what we call the Burkina Faso scenario — the army taking power out of the president’s hands and conferring it on the people. We are assured now that’s not going to happen, but that doesn’t mean that opposing movement is going to stop. It seems that barricades already started going up this morning in the early hours, so it’s highly probable that the opposition will go on, only this time it will be civilian, without the military, which could mean there’ll be some return to violence on the part of the security services, who will feel they have ample latitude to act.”
euronews: “Are some people’s fears of repression warranted?”
Caslin: “Oh yes, there were manhunts this morning, already.”
euronews: “On the civilian level, is there a risk of a return to ethnic clashes, like the country’s had in the past?”
Caslin: “There’s always that risk in this region. The country has been protected so far. Burundi, unlike Rwanda, has been working on this for a long time, so that the communities in which different ethnicities live together, in the army, for instance, are half Tutsi and half Hutu. So, for the moment, we haven’t seen the crisis produce an ethnic split. But anything is possible in a country with a history of violence in these past decades. Unfortunately, we can imagine the worst.”