(smh.com) – Burkina Faso coup: Military arrests leaders, dissolves parliament and takes power

People demonstrate near the presidential palace after soldiers arrested Burkina Faso's leaders.People demonstrate near the presidential palace after soldiers arrested Burkina Faso’s leaders. Photo: AP

Ouagadougou: Military officers have overthrown the government of Burkina Faso, plunging the West African country into chaos. The coup was apparently led by allies of the country’s longtime ruler, who was toppled in October.

Throughout Thursday morning (local time), supporters of the ousted interim president, Michel Kafando, and prime minister, Isaac Zida, assembled in protest in various neighbourhoods in the capital, yelling, “Free the hostages!” They were dispersed by warning shots from military patrols that crisscrossed the capital. The authorities ordered the country’s borders sealed, cancelled flights and imposed a curfew.

The crisis began on Wednesday evening when the two officials, as well as two ministers, were seized during a cabinet meeting.

Military guards locked Burkina Faso president Michel Kafando, pictured, the prime minister and two ministers in a room at the presidential palace.Military guards locked Burkina Faso president Michel Kafando, pictured, the prime minister and two ministers in a room at the presidential palace. Photo: Ian Langsdon

The newsroom of Radio Omega, a station that was central in reporting news of the 2014 uprising, was stormed. The journalists were forced to cut off the signal, and the offices were set on fire.

On Thursday morning, a military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Mamadou Bamba, appeared on television — which had been running reruns of old shows — to make a statement on behalf of what he called the National Council for Democracy. The council, he said, is led by General Gilbert Diendéré, a close ally of the former president, Blaise Compaoré, who was in power for 27 years until last fall.

Colonel Bamba said it was necessary to “put an end” to the temporary government, which he said had deviated from the goals of the October 2014 revolt.

Burkina Faso Prime Minister Isaac Zida (centre) in 2014.Burkina Faso Prime Minister Isaac Zida (centre) in 2014. Photo: AP

The interim president had been removed, Colonel Bamba said, and the National Transition Council, the equivalent of parliament, dissolved.

The office of French President François Hollande said that he “strongly condemns the coup d’état that has taken place” and “calls for the immediate liberation of all those arrested, for the interim authorities to be put back in place and for the continuation of the electoral process”. Burkina Faso, then known as Upper Volta, was a French colony until 1960.

The guards leading the coup were members of the Presidential Security Regiment, known by its French initials, R.S.P., a powerful group that Compaoré formed. A political overhaul commission recently published a report urging the dissolution of the R.S.P.

An old military truck parked in an empty street in the capital Ouagadougou.An old military truck parked in an empty street in the capital Ouagadougou. Photo: AP

Colonel Bamba accused the previous government of manipulating the military “for personal ends”, and of trying to muzzle the news media. He said the security forces had been unfairly “politicised and manipulated” in a security environment that is “characterised by terrorism and organised crime”.

Western governments have warned that Burkina Faso and other countries in the Sahel face threats from Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Officials in the capital said that R.S.P. guards had locked Kafando, Zida and the two ministers — Augustin Loada, the work and pensions minister, and René Bagoro, the housing and urban affairs minister — in a room at the presidential palace. Their whereabouts were unknown as of Thursday morning.

Protesters after the coup.Protesters after the coup. Photo: Theo Renaut

Chérif Sy, the leader of Parliament, issued a statement on Wednesday evening calling the events a “serious attack on the republic and its institutions.” He exhorted “all patriots to defend the motherland”.

Zida, a former R.S.P. member, was among those who had pushed out Compaoré last year. Kafando is a former foreign minister and United Nations ambassador. They were part of a transitional administration that was to be replaced after elections scheduled to start on October 11.

The New York Times, Reuters

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/burkina-faso-coup-military-arrests-leaders-dissolves-parliament-and-takes-power-20150917-gjpd2o.html#ixzz3lzzvjLac
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