Burkina Faso: Military gives coup leaders a surrender ultimatum

Pro-government troops have taken control of key parts of the capital. Regional leaders are also ramping up negotiations.

Joe Penney/Reuters
Soldiers from the regular army walk in front of their camp near anti-coup protesters in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 22, 2015.

Troops loyal to Burkina Faso’s interim government converged on the West African nation's capital overnight and told soldiers behind last week’s coup to disarm or face an attack.

The Burkina Faso military gave the mutinous soldiers a 10 a.m. deadline to disarm, reports the Associated Press, as National Army troops from around the country massed in Ouagadougou in a show of force.

"I call on the population of Burkina Faso to remain calm and to have confidence in the National Armed Forces who have reaffirmed their unfailing commitment to preserve the unity of the nation," Gen. Pingrenoma Zagre said in a statement.

Witnesses told Reuters on Tuesday that rebel soldiers still controlled the presidential palace. But they said pro-government troops, who entered Ouagadougou without resistance, held most other key points in the capital.

Meanwhile, the coup leaders have released the interim prime minister, Lt. Col. Yacouba Isaac Zida, whom they detained last Wednesday along with the interim president, Michael Kafando. Mr. Zida has reportedly returned to his official residence, while Mr. Kafando sought protection in the French ambassador’s residence on Monday.

The soldiers who mounted last week’s coup are members of an elite Army unit loyal to the previous president, Blaise Compaoré. He was forced from office last October in mass protests against his plans to prolong his rule by amending the constitution after 27 years in power, reports The New York Times.

The interim government that replaced Mr. Compaoré barred his supporters from taking part in elections scheduled for next month, a decision that triggered the coup.

Negotiations between military leaders and the rebel soldiers are under way in a bid to stem the violence, reports the BBC. The coup leader, Gen. Glibert Diendere, says he will step aside once regional leaders endorse a compromise plan, including an amnesty for him and his fellow conspirators.

The Times reports that a team of West African leaders headed by Senegal’s President Macky Sall announced the plan on Sunday after three days of tense negotiations.

[It] called for General Diendéré to stand down, Mr. Kafando to be returned to office and allies of Mr. Compaoré to be allowed to participate in the elections. Under the plan, the coup leaders would be given immunity from prosecution, and the election, originally scheduled for Oct. 11, would be held by Nov. 22.

Mr. Sall presented the compromise as the only way to prevent a worsening of the violence, which has killed around a dozen people and injured more than 100 others, but it was not clear at first whether either side would accept it. General Diendéré did not attend the news conference where the compromise was announced, and pro-Compaoré protesters demonstrated against the deal in the capital on Monday.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to host a summit in Abuja on Tuesday to discuss the draft agreement. Yet pro-government forces have also rejected the proposal because of its amnesty clause.

"We have no interest in the proposal that will be discussed at the summit because right now we are in the process of solving our own contradictions," Sheriff Sy, president of Burkina Faso’s interim transitional council, told Reuters.

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