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What we do and don’t know so far about Burundi failed coup

1. People power matters.
Although the coup d’état announced by a section of the Burundi Army is a potential game-changer in the crisis, the most crucial resistance to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s search for a third term in office, up to the point of the coup, has come from ordinary civilians, civil society groups, opposition political parties and moderate members of the ruling party, probably in that order.

If the coup succeeds, the soldiers will have marched behind the people, not ahead of them.

2. You snooze, you lose.
It is quite possible that soldiers could have attempted a coup with President Nkurunziza in the country, but his decision to leave for the regional summit in Tanzania created a temporary power vacuum that the plotters used to move against him, and keep him out of the country.

In 1971 Idi Amin pulled the rug from under Milton Obote who had flown to Singapore for a Commonwealth Summit after issuing orders for the soldier to be arrested.

3. A coup plotter’s best friend is the good old national broadcaster.
The on-going battle over the national television and radio station in Bujumbura is a reminder that in countries without a plurality of broadcasters, and where the majority of the population still lives in the countryside, a coup is not complete until the plotters have seized the national broadcaster.

4. What’s good for the protestor is also good for the president
In the two weeks of protests preceding the coup announcement, there were several reports of authorities in Burundi blocking mobile phone access to social media sites and applications used by civil society activists to mobilise the protests.

These were the same tools that President Nkurunziza resorted to after he found himself stranded in Tanzania.