Coup leaders contradicted this. ”We control virtually the entire city. The soldiers who are being deployed are on our side,” Venon Ndabaneze, a coup spokesman, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

And soon after, the state broadcaster went off air.

Now, any competent coup leader will tell you that gaining control of the state’s radio broadcaster is the crucial first step towards asserting command over a country. The platform confers the ability to control the message and shape the perception of who is in charge.

And despite the growing popularity of social media, radio is the main source of news for Burundians. So it is unsurprising that, following Nkurunziza’s statement, pro-coup soldiers launched an intense battle to try and gain control of Radio Télévision Nationale du Burundi (RTNB), the only broadcaster with national reach in the country.

But they were repelled. “We had stopped transmitting during the attack. Now the fighting has stopped we can resume. It is still loyalist soldiers who are in control,” station’s director Jerome Nzokirantevye announced on air.

Pro-coup forces confirmed.

Earlier, the popular private radio station Radio Publique Africaine, where on Wednesday Niyombare had proclaimed the dismissal of President Nkurunziza, was burnt down.

So you want to know who is in charge in Burundi? Pay close attention to whoever is in control of the airwaves. Because the one that wins this battle stands a pretty good chance of emerging victorious.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.