Burkina unrest lingers, putschists accused of seizing troops

Romaric Ollo Hien
1 / 3

Members of Burkina Faso's presidential guard disperse protesters during a demonstration in Ougadougou, on September 20, 2015

Members of Burkina Faso's presidential guard disperse protesters during a demonstration in Ougadougou, on September 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou)

Ouagadougou (AFP) - Burkina Faso's government on Monday accused an elite presidential guard behind this month's week-long coup of refusing to disarm, of seizing loyalist troops, and of planning yet more trouble.

A peace deal brokered by the ECOWAS west African regional bloc is "at an impasse", the chief of army staff said, denouncing the powerful RSP unit of guards for "refusing to follow the disarmament by creating incidents and attacking personnel charged with this mission."

The interim government meanwhile accused coup leader Gilbert Diendere of seizing soldiers and taking them hostage, as well as of holding back RSP troops "wanting to join the voice of reason."

"What is more serious is that the government has come to learn of the mobilisation of foreign troops and jihadists who they have called to help them," the statement said, without elaborating.

Burkina's reinstalled interim cabinet on Friday dissolved the RSP guard, which is loyal to ousted veteran dictator Blaise Compaore, and whose officers detained interim President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida on September 16.

The unit declared a coup the following day and installed Diendere, Compaore's former chief of staff, as the new leader.

In an apparent bid to downplay fears of continued unrest, Diendere on Monday told France 24 television however that "things are returning to normal."

"I think the (disarmament) process will continue, though it will take the time it needs," he said.

The short-lived coup has shown up cracks within the army, pitting the old guard fiercely loyal to Compaore, who lives in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast, against junior officers who remain unflinchingly loyal to the interim administration.

The chief of army staff also denounced the "ambiguous behaviour of General Gilbert Diendere."


- 'Safety pledges not being respected' -


A source in the RSP told AFP that the disarmament process was deadlocked as a pledge by the government to ensure the safety of the putschists as well as their families was not being respected.

The peace deal also called on loyalist troops who had converged on the capital Ouagadougou to pressure the coup leaders into submission, to withdraw 50 kilometres away, but they were still ensconced within the city, the source added.

At least 10 people were killed and more than 100 injured in protests triggered by the coup, which came just weeks before the first elections scheduled to be held since Compaore's 2014 ouster after 27 years of iron-fisted rule.

The decision by loyalists in the army to enter Ouagadougou and move against the RSP shocked many oldtime soldiers in a force dominated for decades by troops whose allegiance to Compaore was unquestioned.

In a highly symbolic move, four loyalist soldiers and a veteran RSP officer signed a peace deal on September 22 at the home of the venerated Mossi king, the Mogho Naba, which paved the way for the reinstatement of the interim government.

The Mossis -- the largest ethnicity in Burkina Faso -- have traditionally dominated the social fabric and are a powerful force politically.

As they left the king's palace, one of the young loyalist officers placed a comforting arm around the shoulder of RSP officer Abdoul Aziz Korogo.

The RSP, which was a pillar of the 13,000-strong military, has only 1,300 men.

The interim government has indicated that polls initially due in October 11 to end the interim administration will likely have to be pushed back several weeks in the wake of the coup chaos.

Diendere acknowledged midweek that the attempted overthrow had been a "mistake" and did not enjoy popular backing. Premier Zida has said the general will face justice over his actions.

The government has frozen his assets as well as those of his wife Fatou Diallo Diendere, a former lawmaker in Compaore's CDP party.

The freeze also targeted Djibril Bassole, a former foreign minister under Compaore who had already been excluded from running in next month's polls.