burundi coup
People celebrate in Bujumbura after it was reported that President Nkurunziza had been overthrownGoran Tomasevic/Reuters

The embattled president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, has left Tanzania for his home country following the cancellation of the East African Community meeting in Dar es Salaam, where he was supposed to discuss the violence that has rocked the country since 26 April.

During his absence on Wednesday (13 May), the Burundi army, led by General Godefroid Niyombareh, who was fired by Nkurunziza as intelligence chief in February, declared a coup d'etat in a statement on a private radio.

"The president is already aboard his return flight and will land in Burundi in a few hours. He is on his way," presidential communications chief Willy Nyamitwe told IBTimes UK from Burundi.

But the army has declared the airport has been closed at the demand of Niyombareh – along with as the country's borders. Many Burundians are wondering if the president's plane will be able to land tonight. The general has also asked civilians to flood the airport to stop Nkurunziza's return.

Nyamitwe, who claimed the army coup had "failed", explained the Nkurunziza's "first priority was to take care of that [the coup]".

"The president is coming back to take matters in his hands. First, he will concentrate on this coup d'etat attempt, which has failed. We are busy calming down the people, telling them that this is nothing at all, and that it was a contained coup."

While people in the capital Bujumbura are cheering, it also appears the region chiefs have condemned the coup, awaiting the return of the president before deciding what steps to take next.

Meanwhile, there have been reports of haggling between members of the forces loyal to the president and some putschists.

General Niyombareh 'vanished into thin air'

According to Nyamitwe, Niyombareh, who is allegedly actively been tracked down by the president's security forces, is now at large.

"The general? He is at large, he is in hiding," Nyamitwe said. "He made this announcement and then he fled, he vanished into thin air."

The president's senior presidential adviser on media and communications confirmed the Nkurunziza had not spoken to the army officers behind the coup.

He said: "Why would he speak to to people who have behaved like thugs, who went to a private radio to announce a coup? There is no possible dialogue with outlaws."

On 7 May, the presidential adviser had told IBTimes UK that Nkurunziza would "stamp out" the protests that have rocked the country, as he dismissed calls by protesters for him to revoke his bid for a third term in power.

UPDATE: A source close to General Godefroid Niyombareh told IBTimes UK that "there's absolutely no way" the president's plane will be allowed to land in the country. He added that Burundi's borders have been closed.