Burkina Faso’s toppled Interim President Michel Kafando yesterday resumed power after a week-long coup by renegade troops, who caved in under pressure from regional powers and former colonial ruler France.
The move came after marathon talks in the capital of regional and military heavyweight Nigeria, brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and threats by French President Francois Hollande that the coup leaders could face sanctions if they did not hand back power.
“The transition has been restored and this very minute I am resuming the exercise of power,” Kafando told reporters.
Six ECOWAS heads of state arrived in the capital, Ouagadougou, to oversee the formal reinstallation of Kafando and to try and sort out two contentious issues: an amnesty plan for the coup members and whether upcoming elections should be open to supporters of previously deposed dictator Blaise Compaore.
Kafando said the regional leaders would “take into account the will of the Burkinabe people” in their new mediation bid.
The deal to restore the interim administration to power was signed overnight after troops entered Ouagadougou, turning up the pressure on the elite presidential guards (RSP) who staged the coup.
Under its terms, the RSP agreed to stand down from the positions they had taken up in Ouagadougou, while the army also agreed to withdraw its troops and guarantee the safety of the RSP members as well as their families.
The accord was presented to the Mogho Naba, “king” of Burkina Faso’s leading Mossi tribe, in front of the media early yesterday.
Burkina Faso was plunged into crisis on Wednesday last week when the powerful RSP detained the interim leaders who had been running the country since a popular uprising deposed iron-fisted president Compaore in October last year after his failed bid to extend his 27-year rule.
The elite unit of 1,300 men loyal to Compaore officially declared a coup the following day and installed rebel leader General Gilbert Diendere, Compaore’s former chief of staff, as the country’s new leader.
The breakthrough came as Diendere said that Kafando, who had been seized by presidential guards, but later released, would be returned to office yesterday.
The coup came just weeks ahead of an election planned for Oct. 11, with at least 10 people killed and more than 100 injured in the resulting unrest.
A round of talks mediated by Senegalese President Macky Sall focused on returning power to the interim government while granting the coup leaders an amnesty in return, but the proposal was met with widespread skepticism before any final draft even saw the light.
It was unclear early yesterday if the amnesty had made it into the deal signed between the coup leaders and the army.
On Tuesday, the military had warned Diendere that it had the means to attack his elite forces.
Diendere had hit back, saying his men would defend themselves if the army attacked them.
ECOWAS commission president Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, a former Burkinabe prime minister, on Tuesday said that military and humanitarian observers from member states would be sent to Burkina Faso “to monitor respect for human rights.”
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