Burkina Faso military junta frees interim president

Michel Kafando
Michel Kafando

The military junta in Burkina Faso that took power in a coup has freed interim President Michel Kafando and two of his ministers from detention, the junta’s leader said on Friday, as security forces fired in the air to quell protests.

The decision to free Kafando appeared to signal possible flexibility by General Gilbert Diendere and the junta ahead of talks on Friday with Senegalese President Macky Sall, current chairman of the West African ECOWAS bloc.

Sall and Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi are due to mediate in the wake of Thursday’s coup that was condemned by the United States, former colonial power France and the United Nations, which demanded the resumption of a democratic transition.

“I confirm that President Kafando has been freed. He is in good health,” Diendere told journalists, adding that interim Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida was under house arrest.

The takeover derailed a transition that started last October after street protests toppled President Blaise Compaore after 27 years in power and was due to lead to elections on Oct. 11.

That uprising became a beacon for democratic aspirations in Africa at a time when long-term and authoritarian rulers from Rwanda to Congo Republic are seeking to scrap term limits.

Diendere was Compaore’s military advisor and he said the putsch was triggered by a transitional government proposal to dismantle the presidential guard and a fear of instability after Compaore’s supporters were barred from contesting elections.

Security forces in Ouagadougou fired in the air on Friday to disperse demonstrators who burned tyres and blocked neighbourhood streets on a second day of protests against the coup. At least three died and 60 were wounded on Thursday.

“I am worried and against the putschists. We are demonstrating because we want the (democratic) transition process to unfold,” said Aissata Kabor.

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