Burundi’s government will not take revenge against those involved in last week’s failed coup, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s office has said.
Those implicated would be brought to justice in accordance with the rule of law, it added in a statement. Protests are continuing in the capital, Bujumbura, against Mr Nkurunziza’s third-term bid.
The presidential poll is due to be held on 26 June. Mr Nkurunziza has so far refused to bow to pressure to postpone it.
Several alleged leaders of the coup attempt have been arrested but Gen Godefroid Niyombare, who announced it in a radio broadcast last Wednesday, remains on the run.
Mr Nkurunziza’s office said the government did “not have and will never have a plan for revenge that we are reading and hearing about in various places”.
“The people involved in the shameful attempt to overthrow legitimate institutions will be arrested and prosecuted by the law and only by the law. And it will be up to the courts to determine their punishment as prescribed by the law,” it added.
The UN refugee agency says that more than 105,000 people have fled Burundi into neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, there are increasing fears about the potential for mass violence in Burundi as protests continue against the president’s decision to seek reelection.
Weeks of unrest, spurred by the Burundian president’s decision to stand for a disputed third term and a subsequent coup attempt, have reached a tipping point, U.S. officials, academics and other observers said Monday. While warning that the situation is fluid and could stabilize, some alluded to neighbouring Rwanda and noted that Burundi itself has a history of mass killings.
“It is a very dangerous situation. We’re hearing from a lot of people in the country that they are extremely scared,” said Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labour. “This is a country that has experienced mass atrocities and mass killings in the past, and all of the ingredients that experience has taught us to look for … are there.”
Malinowski declined to make a direct comparison to Rwanda, but added, “We have seen terrible things happen in this region before and promised ourselves if such a situation ever arose again we would do everything possible to prevent the worst from happening, and we don’t know where this crisis is going to lead.”
Pro-government forces are facing off with protesters demanding President Pierre Nkurunziza step down once his term is complete. On Monday, there were reports of scattered killings of protesters, U.S. officials and others said. Aside from ethnic tensions, disputes over land rights could also add to the instability.
The Burundian army appears to have taken over security in the face of protests, but its unity, forged in recent years in part due to U.S. and other international assistance, appears to be fraying. “We’re starting to see some fracturing there along ethnic lines,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said.
Burundi’s ambassador to Washington, however, strongly disputed reports of divisions in the army, saying that it was a well-integrated force representing all types of Burundians, and that its unity ensured the violence in the country would not spin out of control.
“They’re not ready to allow anyone to bring us back at war,” Ernest Ndabashinze said. “The army is our guarantee.”