On May 13, General Niyombare declared that President Nkurunziza had been “relieved of his duties” by a coup; Nkurunziza was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at the time—ironically attending a summit of African leaders that had been convened because of the unfolding political instability in Burundi in response to Nkurunziza’s campaign for a third term as president. What followed Niyombare’s “coup” was sheer confusion. There were no clear answers as to where Nkurunziza was, who was in control of the country, or the extent to which Burundians supported the coup.
By May 15, however, it had become clear that Nkurunziza had returned to Burundi and had regained power. It is also apparent that Burundi cannot carry out “free and fair” elections at this point in time. The attempted coup has given the president enormous leverage to crack down on political dissent and has undermined the legitimacy of the political opposition that considered the third term unconstitutional. What began as a troubled electoral process, following the CNDD-FDD’s nomination of Nkurunziza as their presidential candidate, has been rendered farcical by this week’s coup attempt.