(AA) – The Burundian opposition said Thursday that a coup attempt against President Pierre Nkurunziza was a “bitter” option for the country.
“The coup idea was a bad one, but it emerged in the context of the current turmoil in Burundi and President Nkurunziza’s insistence on remaining in power,” Agathon Rwasa, president of the opposition National Front for Liberation (FNL), told Anadolu Agency.
“Though it’s a bitter option, there was no other way,” he said.
Rwasa called on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from committing any acts of violence.
On Wednesday, former intelligence chief Godefroid Niyombare announced the “dismissal” of Nkurunziza and his government amid ongoing anti-government protests that have paralyzed the country for almost three weeks.
The presidency, however, was quick to assert via Twitter that the coup attempt had failed, giving no further details.
On Wednesday, Nkurunziza was forced to return to Tanzania – where he had attended a regional summit – after his plane was denied access to Burundian airspace.
At least 22 people have been killed in protests and clashes since late April, when Nkurunziza announced plans to seek a third term in office.
Critics say a third-term run by Nkurunziza would violate the terms of the 2000 Arusha agreement, which – along with ending a Hutu-Tutsi civil war – stipulated that Burundi’s president should not serve out more than two terms in office.
However, Burundi’s Constitutional Court has ruled that Nkurunziza’s third-term bid would not violate the country’s national charter.
As he was elected in 2005 by the country’s parliament and not by the people, the court decided, Nkurunziza’s first stint in office should not be counted as a first presidential term per se.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader, has been in power since 2005.