Burundi's top officials admit to involvement in an attempted coup

Former Defence Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye is in the dock with 28 others; they face life imprisonment.

Burundian soldiers patrol during the construction of several marquees on the outskirt of Musaga neighbourhood in Bujumbura on 28 June, 2015. The marquees will be used as polling places, away from the restive district centre. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - Burundi's former defence minister and four of the country's top military and police brass have pleaded guilty to involvement in an attempted coup last May.

They say they could not stand by as President Pierre Nkurunziza's security forces killed opponents of his determination to seize an unconstitutional third term in power.

Former Defence Minister Cyrille Ndayirukiye is in the dock with 28 others.

They face life imprisonment.

The two army generals and two police commissioners who've pleaded guilty with the ex-minister say they were ordered to mount the coup by them army Chief Pierre Niyongabo.

They recall Nkurunziza playing football while police and troops killed opponents of his cling to power.

Officially, the death toll was 87 but dissidents say the total was higher.

Coup leader General Godefroid Niyombare is currently on the run.