Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Burkinabe Interim President Said to be Back in Power
OUAGADOUGOU, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Burkina Faso's President, Michel Kafando, said on Wednesday he was back in charge and would resume overseeing a transition to democracy, as a coup last week by soldiers in his personal guard who briefly took him hostage appeared to have ended.

Kafando addressed his supporters and West African leaders who flew to the capital of the West African state to negotiate an end to the putsch in which troops under General Gilbert Diendere briefly took power.

Diendere greeted the heads of state from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Niger at the airport earlier in the day, giving the impression he was still in charge, but he did not attend the ceremony at a conference center at which Kafando spoke.

National elections due on Oct. 11 are meant to mark a return to democracy a year after demonstrators toppled President Blaise Compaore as he attempted to extend his 27-year rule.

Kafando's task was to guide the country to that vote in a process seen as a beacon for democratic hopes in Africa at a time when veteran leaders from Rwanda to Congo Republic appear to be maneuvering to scrap term limits to extend their rule.

"If ever there was a transition to be held up as an example, it is indeed ours," Kafando said, after supporters chanted "Presi, Presi, Presi."

"I can assure you that we are determined to carry on with the mission the Burkinabe people have entrusted us with, to build strong institutions and a real democracy," he said, thanking the international community for condemning the coup.

The presence of the foreign leaders signaled international concern for Burkina Faso, an ally of the United States and France in their battle against Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda in the Sahel region.

Kafando was accompanied by Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, who was held for days after soldiers stormed a cabinet meeting last Wednesday, and the head of the transitional parliament Moumina Cheriff Sy.

While Burkina Faso coup leader Gen. Gilbert Diendere greeted foreign leaders early on Wednesday, he did not appear in public later.


Earlier in the afternoon, presidential guard soldiers maintained their positions at the national television headquarters.

Their presence appeared to violate a deal negotiated with loyalist forces by a traditional leader overnight to return to their barracks.

Loyalist troops, who converged on the capital this week from bases across the country to disarm the coup leaders, were not visible on the streets of Ouagadougou.

Kafando did not say when elections would take place and the fate of Diendere and his soldiers remained unclear. Some residents of Ouagadougou said they did not want the former intelligence chief to be allowed to leave the country.

Ten civilians died and around 100 were injured as security forces suppressed protests against the coup.

At an emergency summit in Nigeria on Tuesday, West African leaders called upon the presidential guard to disarm and urged the African Union and the international community to refrain from imposing sanctions as they sought to mediate in the crisis.

The leaders from the regional ECOWAS bloc were due to meet the coup leaders and transitional authorities to negotiate a final settlement to restore the civilian government.

Life on the streets of Ouagadougou, meanwhile, was largely back to normal following tensions on Tuesday marked by an armed stand-off between pro- and anti-coup forces.

Shops opened and the city's residents poured onto the streets in a rush to shop for Thursday's celebration of Tabaski, or Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice.

"I am happy that Kafando is back in power. But nothing is resolved. We are still being held hostage by the RSP (presidential guard). I am also worried about the security situation," said resident Idrissa Ouedraogo.

After days of confinement in their homes, France's embassy in Ouagadougou encouraged its citizens to venture out to shop for supplies, though French schools in the capital and the second-largest city Bobo-Dioulasso remained closed. 

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