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VOA on the Frontlines of Political Crisis in Burundi

VOA Reporter Gabe Joselow in Bujumbura
VOA Reporter Gabe Joselow in Bujumbura

Voice of America is leading international coverage of the political upheaval in Burundi with on-the-scene reporting and new programming in Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, French, Swahili, and English.

VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow reported from the streets of Burundi’s capital early Wednesday amid reports of a coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza. He filmed thousands of people cheering President Nkurunziza’s apparent ouster, but also cautioned that their celebrations may be premature as the depth of military support for coup leader General Godefroid Niyombare was unclear.

VOA's Central Africa Service broadcast General Niyombare’s statement claiming power and balanced it with an interview with President Nkurunziza’s Interior Minister Edouard Nduwimana, who said the coup had failed and the president was on his way back to Bujumbura. VOA reporters in Burundi provided live updates on the standoff outside the national radio station along with a series of interviews with protestors.

The Central Africa Service broadcast White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s call for all sides to end the violence and his pronouncement that the Obama administration continues to recognize President Nkurunziza. The Service also spoke to opposition politician Hussein Radjab and George Mason University professor Elavie Ndura while profiling General Niyombare and his objection to President Nkurunziza running for a third term.

VOA’s Swahili Service reported from Dar es Salaam, where President Nkurunziza was scheduled to meet with regional leaders to discuss Burundi’s political crisis. Swahili carried a statement from Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete condemning the coup and calling for a postponement of next month’s vote. The service also interviewed Burundian opposition politician Agathon Rwasa, who backed removing the president but objected to military rule.

VOA’s French-to-Africa Service preempted regular programming to focus on the crisis in Burundi. The English-language television show Africa 54 led with original Joselow reporting from Bujumbura and an on-set interview with Professor Ndura.

The political upheaval follows President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for re-election, which his opponents say violates a regional peace accord limiting the president to two terms. President Nkurunziza says he is not bound by those limits because parliament voted him to his first term.

As clashes between police and anti-government protesters increased, VOA this week began boosting broadcasts to Burundi, adding shortwave and FM broadcasts in Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, French, and English. VOA is now able to provide more reporting from the ground, new drive-time newscasts, and an expanded call-in show.

“The uncertainty of the situation in Burundi following the coup attempt makes accurate reporting even more essential,” says VOA Director David Ensor. “Our coverage played a vital role before these events, and it is even more important now to help keep our audiences informed.”

Daily broadcasts of VOA programming air on 95.2 FM and 94.9 FM in Bujumbura and on 104.3 FM in Kigali.