Crisis Avoided?

Ten people killed and more than one hundred injured – casualties of the week-long military coup that ended last week in Burkina Faso. Interim President Michel Kafando has been formally reinstated in the capital of Ouagadougou following heightened tensions fearing the spectra of a civil war. The leader of the Presidential Guard instigating the coup, General Gilbert Diendere, admitted to local media that it was “the biggest mistake”.

He said, “We knew the people were not in favour of it. That is why we have given up”.

General Diendere was chief of staff and the right hand to former President Blaise Compaore. Compaore held office for 27 years but was ousted last October in a popular uprising. Mass street protests toppled Compaore as he attempted to amend the constitution and extend his rule.

Burkina Faso became a beacon for democratic aspirations in Africa as veteran rulers from Rwanda to Congo Republic moved to scrap term limits. Thursday’s coup in Ouagadougou derailed preparations for democratic elections on the 11th of October; with the military had acting as the backbone of political oppression under Compaore’s reign. Many civilians took to the streets in protest of the coup under the general sentiment that the country’s democratic trajectory had been obstructed.

The president guard (RSP) has pledged to return to barracks following an agreement with the regular army last Tuesday to surrender power. The army conceded that it would withdraw from the capital.

Diendere greeted African leaders at the airport earlier on Wednesday, but did not attend Kafando’s transfer of power ceremony. Hours later Diendere told reporters that he confirmed “full responsibility” for the coup and was “not afraid to face justice”.

Diendere has faced national and international pressure to concede power over the last few days. African leaders publicly condemned the coup, emphasising the importance of an inclusive democratic process to proceed. Nigerian President Buhari unreservedly condemned the coup as a “brazen contravention of the constitution and transitional charter”. Buhari, a former army general who came to power in a military coup in December 1983, refers to himself as a ‘converted democrat’ after defeating president Goodluck Jonathon in March elections.

Despite the president being officially reinstated, fear of the situation deteriorating remain. Diendere publicly laments that there was a “waste of time and resources… and human lives were lost”; however threats of disbanding the RSP that prompted the coup remain a possibility in upcoming elections. The former ruling CDP party of ousted ruler Blaise Compaore is still banned from the ballot. It seems unlikely that 1 200 well-armed and trained men are likely to accept surrender and exclusion from the vote. Elections are confirmed to be back on track as the world anxiously watches on.