Burkina Faso coup leader defies ultimatum


Burkina Faso security forces PHOTO/COURTESY
Burkina Faso security forces PHOTO/COURTESY

Burkina Faso’s coup leader said on Tuesday he was still in charge despite the passing of an army deadline for his forces to surrender, raising fresh doubts about a return to civilian rule.

General Gilbert Diendere who seized power last week said he was ready to negotiate but awaited the outcome of a summit of West African regional leaders in the Nigerian capital.

“I’m not stalling for time. I’m within the time allotted to me,” he told a news conference. “I am still the president of the National Democratic Council (junta).”

The coup has exposed divisions within the powerful security forces of a West African country that is an ally of the United States and France in their fight against Islamic militants in the region. Burkina, a former French colony, hosts some 200 French special forces.

Burkina had been preparing for an election on Oct. 11 which analysts now expect to be delayed. That vote aimed to restore democracy nearly a year after an uprising toppled President Blaise Compaore who had held power for 27 years.

Few people ventured onto the streets of the capital as the deadline set for 10.00 a.m. passed, though a crowd chanted its support for the loyalists. The troops, who control most of the capital, said talks with the coup leaders were underway.

Earlier, loyalists said they were preparing to attack the Camp Naba Koom army base near the presidential palace, which is held by presidential guard troops who staged the coup.

Compaore himself seized power in a coup in the landlocked country, one of the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa, and for decades the military has played a substantial role.

The uprising against him was seen as a beacon for democracy campaigners seeking to impose term limits on long time African rulers.

In one apparent gesture of conciliation, the coup leaders released interim prime minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, who had been held hostage since the revolt began, his adviser and another loyalist officer told Reuters.

Interim President Michel Kafando, who was taken hostage in the coup and then placed under house arrest, sought protection in the French ambassador’s residence in the capital on Monday.

PRESIDENTIAL GUARD “DISSOLVED”

Diendere, who was head of intelligence under Compaore, and his presidential guard rebelled on Wednesday, raiding a cabinet meeting and detaining the president and other ministers. The coup failed to win broad domestic popular support and has received international condemnation.

Their action was triggered by discontent over a plan by the interim government to disband the presidential guard and by a decision to prevent allies of Compaore standing at the election.

Moumina Cheriff Sy, head of the transitional parliament, has declared himself the country’s interim leader and on Tuesday he issued a decree dissolving the presidential guard.

“The interim president of the transition … decrees … the Presidential Security Regiment is dissolved,” read the decree he signed. It was unclear whether the declaration could be implemented in the short term.

The results of the summit from the West African bloc ECOWAS, were expected later on Tuesday and its chair, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, said events had undermined international efforts to negotiate a peaceful end to the crisis.

“The recent developments in our sister country Burkina Faso run contrary to our expectations and the efforts so far deployed towards the restoration of constitutional order and democracy by (the African Union) and (United Nations),” he said.

“Some measures of understanding reached towards the resolution of the crisis,” he said, without given details.

The summit would likely discuss a proposal by ECOWAS mediators for a draft agreement to end the crisis. Supporters of the government have rejected that proposal on the grounds that it gives amnesty to the coup leaders.

“We have no interest in the proposal that will be discussed at the summit because right now we are in the process of solving our own contradictions,” the parliament head told Reuters.

His rejection of the proposal was echoed by members of civil society as well as by protesters in who burned tyres and blocked streets on Monday to show opposition to the ECOWAS move.

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Maureen Murimi
Story By Maureen Murimi
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