(reuters) – Violence erupts near hotel in Burkina Faso where mediators are gathered


Burkina Faso
Protesters chanted slogans against the presidential guard in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Sept. 16, 2015, where the interim president and the prime minister were detained by soldiers loyal to a former longtime leader. REUTERS/Joe Penney

Ambassadors from the U.S. and France in Burkina Faso tweeted that they were safe Sunday morning, as a hostage situation erupted at a hotel in the country’s capital Ouagadougou. “I am with my colleagues, we’re fine. We are not held hostage, we are free,” said French Ambassador Gilles Thibault. Demonstrators stormed the hotel where talks aimed at forging a pact to restore government rule in the country were being hosted, the Associated Press reported, citing local witnesses. The summit was called for after a military coup earlier this month sent the country’s president and prime minister to jail.

A violent clash outside the hotel between pro-military demonstrators and those who support the ousted leaders broke out, leading to a suspension of the talks, according to Reuters. That reportedly led to a conflict inside the hotel. “They invaded the hotel. It was violent,” a witness told Reuters. “They attacked ex-opposition members as they arrived. One had to be saved from the crowd by security forces.”

The witness told Reuters he recognized several of the demonstrators as party militants from the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), Burkina Faso’s former ruling party under ex-president Blaise Compaore, who was ousted in a popular uprising last year.

The hotel meeting came on the heels another seemingly successful summit between military leaders and intervention forces. Gen. Gilbert Diendere, the leader of the military coup, had reportedly entered a final round of discussions with Senegal’s President Macky Sall on Saturday with the goal of providing a pathway to return interim President Michel Kafando to power.

Diendere, Sall and Benin’s President Thomas Yayi Boni “shut themselves in Sall’s suite for decisive discussions on a plan for ending the crisis that could very likely lead to the return of President Kafando,” the Senegalese president’s office said in a statement cited by Reuters.

The country has been suspended from the African Union as tensions continue to rise. The arrest of Kafando and interim Prime Minister Isaac Zida on Wednesday, less than a month before national elections were due to be held, has largely divided the nation and led to a number of demonstrations and protests.

Disaffected citizens have in recent days taken to the streets of Ouagadougou and other cities, burning tires and erecting barricades to block soldiers loyal to Diendere, Reutersreported Saturday. At least 10 people have died and more than 100 others have been wounded in street clashes with the military since the coup began Sept. 16.

(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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