Coup in Burkina Faso ahead of elections

18 September 2015

The military in Burkina Faso has declared that it controls the country, confirming that a coup has taken place just weeks before elections were scheduled.

The announcement, aired on national television and radio, said the transitional government was dissolved and the interim president was no longer in power.

A curfew was declared and borders were closed. Heavy gunfire was heard in the main square of the capital, Ouagadougou, this morning after protesters poured into the streets to denounce the actions of the coup leaders, who are members of the elite presidential guard unit.

The elite guard, who had disagreed publicly with the transitional government in recent months, identified themselves as the National Council for Democracy and said they had taken control from a ''deviant regime''.

The fate of the interim president, Michel Kafando, and the prime minister, Isaac Zida, who were both arrested after troops stormed into a cabinet meeting, was unclear.

Burkina Faso, it may be remarked, is an old, if neglected, ally of India; it is also one of the least developed countries in the world.

Interim parliament speaker, Cheriff Sy, urged the masses to immediately rise up to protest against what he told Radio France International was clearly a coup.

The latest unrest comes just under a year after a much-praised popular uprising swept the old regime of long-serving leader Blaise Compaoré from power. Compaoré's determined attempt to extend his 27-year rule was met with a mass revolt of rare vehemence by regional standards.

Protesters gathered in the streets in large numbers through October 2014 and set the parliamentary building on fire, forcing Compaoré to flee into exile in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.

The former president retained the loyalty of elements within the military, however, and electoral laws barring politicians who had supported electoral reforms to extend Compaoré's stay in office from running in elections due on 11 October seemed to have provided the coup-plotters with an excuse to act.

In his address, Bamba announced the beginning of a ''coherent, fair and equitable process'' that would lead to inclusive elections.

But in an echo of the protests which ended Compaoré's time in office, crowds gathered with whistles and vuvuzelas near the presidential palace on Thursday morning, shouting ''Down with the RSP [presidential guard]''.

The military power-grab drew swift condemnation from many quarters. ''The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force,'' said US State Department spokesman John Kirby.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, also expressed dismay after the presidential guard burst into a cabinet meeting. It comes less than a month before an election to complete a transition back to democracy after a popular uprising toppled Burkina Faso's long-time ruler last year.

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