(Reuters) – A Burundian general who backed a failed coup in May threatened that he and others would launch an armed resistance after President Pierre Nkurunziza refused to bow to opposition and international demands to abandon a bid for a third term.
General Leonard Ngendakumana, a deputy to the leader of the aborted uprising, accused the president of dragging the central African country back into civil war, comments that will alarm a region with a long history of ethnic conflict.
“The next (step) is to organise ourselves just to resist, to make Pierre Nkurunziza understand that he must leave and then that we are prepared to do it by force, by organising a military force,” Ngendakumana said, adding coup leader General Godefroid Niyombare was still in Burundi.
The government told Reuters that any such move would be confronted. “Anybody threatening the security of Burundi, either inside or outside, will meet the full force of our defence and security forces,” presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho said.
Opponents say Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term – which triggered weeks of violent clashes between protesters and police in Burundi’s capital – violates a two-term limit in the constitution and a peace deal that ended an ethnically charged civil conflict in 2005.
Nkurunziza says a court ruling allows him to stand in the vote scheduled for July 15.
The general’s interview with Kenya’s KTN channel was recorded on Sunday, before Monday’s meeting in Dar es Salaam of east African states plus South Africa as they seek to end the crisis.
“They (Burundi’s government) want to engage the region in that civil war, based on ethnic (issues),” Ngendakumana said. “They want to start by breaking the constitution, by breaking the Arusha reconciliation and peace agreement.”
The Arusha accords ended a 12-year conflict that pitted rebel groups of the majority Hutus, including one led by Nkurunziza, against minority Tutsis, which commanded the army at the time. The army and other institutions are now mixed.
He said followers of the coup leaders were behind a spate of grenade attacks, which often targeted police, in the run up to a parliamentary election on June 26. “We are behind them, and our intent is to intensify,” he said when asked about the incidents.
U.N. observers said the June vote was not free or fair, a charged the authorities dismissed. The opposition has said it will boycott all the polls.