Burkina Faso coup reversed, general arrested

The coup d’etat in the West African country of Burkina Faso has evidently been reversed by the opposition of sections of the army loyal to the interim government, and by massmobilization.

On Sept. 16, the presidential guard (RSP, or Presidential Security Regiment) headed by General Gilbert  Diendéré had burst into a meeting at the presidential palace in the capital, Oagadougou, and arrested interim President Michel Kafando and interim Prime Minister Isaac Zida and several other officials.

General Diendéré was a key aide of the dictator Blaise Compaore who was overthrown by a people’s rebellion a year ago when he tried to change the laws so as to be able to serve another presidential term.  There had been demands for the guard unit, the RSP, that he commanded to be disbanded. This, and the decision of the interim government not to allow Compaore’s henchmen to run in the scheduled Oct. 11 elections, were among the motives mentioned for the general’s coup. Another could be that the day after the coup, a report was scheduled to be issued on the murder of former left wing President Thomas Sankara, a hero of the left and the poor, in 1987.  There have been suspicions that Compaore and people close to him, who carried out the coup in which Sankara was killed, in fact were directly involved in that assassination. Compaore is now living in exile in the Ivory Coast.

Once Diendéré and his men had taken power, they found themselves resolutely opposed by the same mass forces that had thrown out Compaore in 2014.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) tried to organize a mediation that would please both sides, and the Naba, or King, of the old pre-colonial Mossi Kingdom of which Oagadougou was originally the capital, also tried to mediate.

But the Burkinabe people were not having anything to do with any compromise that might help Compaore and his people return to power, so “the street” rejected a plan that was presented to the nation by ECOWAS, which would have delayed the elections and allowed Compaore’s people to run as candidates.   Finally, on Tuesday Sept. 22, elements of the army that opposed Compaore and Diendéré stepped in and besieged the presidential palace, defeating the presidential guard diehards holed up there after a sharp firefight and restoring the transitional government.  Kafando and Zida, who had been released earlier, announced that they were back in power.

Diendéré had sought refuge in the Vatican embassy in Oagadougou but surrendered on Thursday and is now in custody.  The  restored interim government has now announced the dissolution of the RSP, and the arrest of a number of other people involved in the coup attempt.   

It is not clear whether the elections will go forth as planned on Oct. 11, or will be delayed.

Photo: Burkina Faso coup leader Gen. Gilbert Diendere, center.  |  AP


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.