Burkina coup leader says he’s still in charge
OUGADOUGOU – Burkina Faso’s General Gilbert Diendere said on Tuesday he remained the head of a military junta that staged a coup last week despite the passing of a deadline set by loyalist soldiers for his forces to surrender or face attack.
Diendere says he is awaiting the outcome of a summit of West African leaders being held in Nigeria.
“I’m not stalling for time. I’m within the time alotted to me,” he told a news conference, reiterating that he was still president of the National Democratic Council, as the junta is known.
Earlier troops loyal to Burkina Faso’s interim government issued an ultimatum to soldiers behind a coup, demanding they disarm and surrender by 10am local time (noon Central African time) or face attack, a senior loyalist officer said.
“They have until 10am to lay down their weapons and surrender at the Camp Sangoule Lamizana,” the officer said, referring to a military barracks west of the capital Ouagadougou.
Coup leaders freed interim prime minister Isaac Zida early Tuesday, several sources said.
A police source and a member of Zida’s entourage told AFP that the prime minister, held at the presidential palace since the coup on Wednesday, was allowed to return to his official residence.
The move came shortly after Burkina Faso troops entered the capital without resistance and begun negotiating the surrender of coup leaders there, police said early Tuesday.
“All units (of the army mobilised on Monday to march on the capital) reached Ouagadougou” overnight, Colonel Serge Alain Ouedraogo, deputy head of the Burkinabe police, told AFP.
“We must now secure the surrender of the (coup leaders) without gunfire or bloodshed,” he said.
Witnesses said cheering crowds greeted the military units along their march to the capital.
With domestic and international pressure growing on the coup leaders to lay down their arms, they released the country’s interim president and prime minister, whose seizure on Wednesday kicked off the putsch.
French ambassador Gilles Thibault tweeted that interim president Michel Kafando, who had been under house arrest, was now “at the French residence”.
And a police source and a member of Zida’s entourage told AFP that interim prime minister Isaac Zida, held at the presidential palace since the coup on Wednesday, had been allowed to return to his official residence.
Soldiers from the powerful RSP presidential guard regiment loyal to ex-leader Blaise Compaore detained the interim leaders on Wednesday, plunging Burkina Faso into turmoil just weeks ahead of an election planned for October 11.
The RSP, an elite unit of 1,300 men, officially declared a coup the following day and installed General Gilbert Diendere, a close Compaore ally, as the country’s new leader.
At least 10 people were killed and more than 100 injured in protests sparked by the coup, ahead of what would have been the first elections since Compaore was ousted in a popular revolt last October after trying to extend his 27-year grip on power.
The putsch sparked international uproar, with former colonial power France urging coup leaders to surrender and an African delegation attempting to mediate in the crisis.
French President Francois Hollande demanded “all those involved in the putsch to immediately lay down their arms and hand over power to the legitimate authorities — or face the consequences.”
And he warned that France, which still wields significant influence in its former African colonies, could also “apply sanctions to those opposing the holding of regular elections”.
A similar call was also issued by the presidents of Niger and Chad, who called on the renegade soldiers to “return to the barracks” and hand back power to the transitional administration.