West African leaders to reinstate interim Burkina Faso President
Published on: September 23, 2015 09:04 (EAT)
West African leaders and their military chiefs will travel to Burkina Faso today to reinstate interim President Michel Kafando amid a standoff between an elite presidential guard behind a coup and the army. The decision to send leaders from Nigeria, Benin, Niger Republic, Toga, Ghana and Senegal was reached after an emergency meeting of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held in Abuja, Nigeria In a statement, ECOWAS said it planned to reinstate and demonstrate solidarity with the interim president Michel Kafando, who was kidnapped last Wednesday along with his interim Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida before he was released on Friday. Zida was released on Tuesday hours after army soldiers entered Ouagadougou without resistance. “They have decided to dispatch on Wednesday a high committee composed of the heads of six ECOWAS member states to go to Ouagadougou to reinstall President Mitchel Kafandou in his capacity as president of the transition and to convey a solidarity message from ECOWAS to the Burkinabe people,” Ouedraogo told reporters after the meeting late on Tuesday. The elite guards behind the coup in Burkina Faso, led by General Gilbert Diendere defied an ultimatum on Tuesday to surrender to regular troops loyal to the government, leading to a stand-off in the capital as they awaited a mediation mission by regional leaders. Loyalist forces marched into Ouagadougou overnight saying they would disarm the 1,200-strong presidential guard, whose putsch just weeks before an October 11 poll threatens to derail a transition back to democracy after last year’s overthrow of long-time leader Blaise Compaore. But even after a 10 am deadline to surrender passed, coup leader General Gilbert Diendere stood firm, saying he would await West African regional leaders’ mediation efforts. Last year, mass street protests toppled Compaore as he attempted to force through changes to the constitution to extend his 27-year rule. In the process, Burkina Faso had become a beacon for democratic aspirations in Africa, where veteran rulers in countries from Rwanda to Congo Republic are seeking to scrap term limits. Diendere, Compaore’s former intelligence chief and right-hand man, said he had acted to prevent the disbandment of the presidential guard and to block a decision to prevent Compaore’s allies standing in the election. Diendere, Compaore’s former intelligence chief and right-hand man, said he had acted to prevent the disbandment of the presidential guard and to block a decision to prevent Compaore’s allies standing in the election. Burkina Faso, a former French colony, is an ally of the United States and France in their fight against Islamist militants in the region, and hosts some 200 French special forces.