Toppled Burkina president resumes power after week-long coup



Burkina Faso’s toppled interim President Michel Kafando resumed power Wednesday after a week-long coup by renegade troops, who caved in under pressure from regional powers and former colonial ruler France.

The move came after marathon talks in the capital of regional and military heavyweight Nigeria, brokered by the ECOWAS west African regional bloc, and threats by French President Francois Hollande that the coup leaders could face sanctions if they did not hand back power.

“The transition has been restored and this very minute I am resuming the exercise of power,” Kafando told reporters.

Six ECOWAS heads of state were meanwhile arriving in the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou to oversee the formal re-installation of Kafando and to try and sort out two contentious issues : an amnesty plan for the putschists and whether upcoming elections should be open to supporters of previously deposed veteran dictator Blaise Compaore.

Kafando said the regional leaders would “take into account the will of the Burkinabe people” in their new mediation bid.

The deal to restore the interim administration to power was signed overnight after troops entered Ouagadougou, turning up the pressure on the elite presidential guards (RSP) who staged the coup.

Under its terms, the RSP agreed to stand down from the positions they had taken up in Ouagadougou, while the army also agreed to withdraw its troops and guarantee the safety of the RSP members as well as their families.

The accord was presented to the Mogho Naba, “king” of Burkina Faso’s leading Mossi tribe, in front of the media early Wednesday.

Burkina Faso was plunged into crisis last Wednesday when the powerful RSP detained the interim leaders who had been running the country since a popular uprising deposed iron-fisted president Compaore last October after his failed bid to extend his 27-year rule.

The elite unit of 1,300 men loyal to Compaore officially declared a coup Thursday and installed rebel leader General Gilbert Diendere, Compaore’s former chief of staff, as the country’s new leader.

The breakthrough came as Diendere told AFP that interim president Michel Kafando, who had been seized by presidential guards but later released, would be returned to office on Wednesday.

The return of “Kafando is already a done deal. The (African) heads of state arrive tomorrow to put him back in office,” Diendere said late Tuesday.

– Fighting talk –

The putsch came just weeks ahead of an election planned for October 11, with at least 10 people killed and more than 100 injured in the resulting unrest.

A round of talks mediated by Senegalese President Macky Sall focused on returning power to the interim government while granting the putschists an amnesty in return.

But the proposal was met with widespread scepticism before any final draft even saw the light.

Speaking to France’s RFI radio, Kafando had warned he had “serious reservations” about the proposal, adding that he had not been invited to the talks in the Nigerian capital.

Residents too were furious at the suggestion of an amnesty for the coup ringleaders.

It was unclear early Wednesday if the amnesty had made it into the deal signed between the coup leaders and the army.

On Tuesday, Burkina Faso’s military had warned coup leader Diendere it has the means to attack his elite forces.

Diendere had hit back, saying his men would defend themselves if the army attacked them.

“We do not want to fight but ultimately we will defend ourselves,” Diendere had warned.

ECOWAS commission president Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, a former Burkinabe prime minister, said Tuesday that military and humanitarian observers from member states would be sent to Burkina Faso “to monitor respect for human rights”.

The coup had sparked global condemnation, with France urging the leaders to surrender immediately or face the “consequences”, including possible sanctions.

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