The evening was relatively calm. No further gunshots were reported in Ouaga, the national army, loyal to the civilian-led transition government, has surrounded Ouagadougou and given an ultimatum to the Presidential Guard (RSP) to lay down their arms by 10am. It is now 9:23.
The army chief is reportedly in talks with coup leaders to negotiate RSP’s surrender. Some RSP soldiers have laid down their weapons and returned to the Lamizana military camp in Ouagadougou. The majority have not. Gilbert Diendere said in a televised statement last night that he wanted to avoid further bloodshed, however it will take leadership at this point to make that happen.
Prime Minister Isaac Zida’s release was confirmed as of 6am this morning. It is unclear whether he or deposed and yet-to-be-reinstated Interim President Michel Kafando will take part in the special meeting held today by the AU and ECOWAS which is expected to provide some clarity and direction on the RSP’s surrender and handover of the government to civilian rule.
In Diendere’s address last night he reiterated that he would hand over power under the terms of the draft proposal that came out of Sunday’s troubled mediation talks. The terms include pardon and amnesty of the perpetrators of the coup. This spurred a national outcry and prompted the loyalist army to converge its entire military on Ouagadougou last night with the sole aim of having RSP lay down its arms without bloodshed. Michel Kafando expressed concerns about the draft proposal and said he was not involved in mediation talks (he was being held hostage at the time). Other heads of state of ECOWAS nations also expressed concerns about the proposal, which seems dead on arrival at today’s extraordinary meeting.
BBC reports that General Diendere, speaking from a secret location, said they were not yet ready to surrender and that they wish to continue negotiations. He added that they are ready to implement ECOWAS’ decisions and that an apology to the nation was “the least we could do.”
The story is far from over but it looks like the coup has run its course. It’s still a bit premature to say it’s over, however coup leader General Gilbert Diendere made an announcement on state television this evening apologizing to the nation and saying he would hand power back to the civilian-led transition.
It was just recently confirmed that Interim President Michel Kafando was released from house arrest and at the French Embassy. Prime Minister Zida, the former 2nd in command of RSP, the elite forces of the army which staged the coup d’etat, is also thought to be freed but that is not yet confirmed.
At approximately 18HR this evening, the entire military of the country converged on Ouagadougou and surrounded it. The Army chief issued a final warning to RSP soldiers to lay down their arms and return to military Camp Lamizana where they and their families were promised to be protected.
Coup leader Diendere is reportedly seeking refuge and pardon at the palace of the Mogho Naaba, where an angry mob of protesters has gathered. That is where things stand now. There has been talk of potential attacks tonight by the army against any last stalwart RSP soldiers who still occupy the Presidential Palace Kossyam.
Tomorrow will bring new revelations as the extraordinary meeting of th African Union and ECOWAS will hammer out details of the handover of power and the fate of the ousted coup leader Diendere. One thing is clear- the draft proposal put forward yesterday after mediation talks by Benin President Boni Yayi who is also acting chair of ECOWAS, was not accrptable as it nearly brought the nation to the brink of civil war. Thankfully, Diendere acknowledged publicly in his address that he did not want to pit the two parts of the nation’s army against each other and at this point sought to avoid further bloodshed… a fitting end to the International Day of Peace.
Amid throngs of cheering Burkinabe and the honking of horns of hundreds of motos, the army filled their tanks and armored vehicles with gas, loaded up on sachets of water and hit the road for Ouagadougou. Word is they have not arrived in Ouaga at the time of this writing, but are expected soon.
We are reassured that on this International Day of Peace, the army general has issued a statement that their sole aim is to disarm the RSP without any bloodshed. They are asking for coup leaders to lay down their arms. This army wants peace!
It’s Peace Day, the International Day of Peace, yet Burkina Faso is far from peaceful at this moment. Last night word spread of a draft proposal that would free the hostages (Interim President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Zida–who was the 2nd in command of the RSP which staged the coup d’etat– and two cabinet members), allow the return to civilian rule led by Michel Kafando and the Transition government, and to have elections before November 22. The deal, mediated by the presidents of Benin and Senegal, also called for the reinstatement of all candidates from the CDP, the party of the toppled former President Blaise Compaore which had been barred from the upcoming election scheduled for October 11. In addition, it called for pardon and amnesty for the perpetrators of the coup. These conditions were unacceptable to the population which successfully overthrew the oppressive Compaore regime in a popular uprising last October.
From our place of residence we could hear protesting in the streets until 3am last night. Messages from the US and French Embassies said to shelter in place, which we did. This morning, two of BARKA’s Burkinabe staff showed up for work despite the continuation of a general strike throughout the nation (bless their hearts). BARKA’s Swiss consultant also came by to check in, as the phone network of a major telecom company is down and communication between us was impossible. The terrestrial internet lan network is also down, by the way. We put out a BARKA newsletter and are writing these updates via a 3G cellular network and a tablet with cellular capability (thank you Pascal Brosset for generously donating this device to us in 2014).
The big news of the day is what just took place. BARKA Foundation has learned that the nation’s army is sending all its troops to Ouagadougou to confront RSP and ostensibly to take its country back. Ina and I received a call earlier from a BARKA staffer telling us to come quickly into the center of town. There we saw a long line of tanks and armored vehicles readying a convoy to Ouaga, filling up with gas (the gas stations have been closed since the coup but opened for this explicit purpose). The streets were filled with approxinately 5000 people, all cheering and shouting Sankara’s prophetic slogan, “La Patrie ou la Mort”, Our Country or Death. As the line of tanks and vehicles began moving through the road which the general population had kept barricaded since the coup took place to prevent the flow of any trade or traffic, the crowd erupted in cheers. Many followed it to the very edge of town in their own vehicles and motos, honking horns and pumping fists in the air. Pray for peace and democracy.
To be continued…
Ina and I are safe and sound in Burkina Faso however have been advised not to disclose our current location publicly. The situation is tense and as the US Embassy states, ‘dynamic’, meaning it could change quickly at any moment.
Given the current political crisis and coup d’etat enacted by the RSP (Presidential Guard), the country’s elite ‘army within an army’ which has been trained by the US, we have decided to convert The BARKA Foundation website temporarily into a blog covering the ongoing situation from our unique perspective on the ground.
In addition, while the full site is under construction, this blog will also offer project updates, photos and video of BARKA’s current work as we wrap up our organization’s largest project to date– water, sanitation and hygiene education for 5 rural villages.
Esu Anahata, BARKA Co-Founder