Burkina Faso President Kafando Returns to Power After Coup

Updated on
  • Junta leader says putsch over and he regrets seizing power
  • West African nations proposed plan to restore government

Burkina Faso’s interim president was restored into office a week after soldiers arrested him and dissolved the transitional government in Africa’s fourth-biggest gold producer. The general who seized power said he regretted it.

Michel Kafando

Photographer: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

Michel Kafando, 73, was re-installed in a ceremony Wednesday attended by West African leaders in the capital, Ouagadougou. His return followed the national army’s demand that those responsible for the coup surrender and concerted pressure from the Economic Community of West African States that the interim government be re-established.

"I resume service," Kafando told reporters. "The transition is thus back and as we speak I will restart the exercise of state power."

The interim government was supposed to organize general elections on Oct. 11, about a year after mass protests ended the almost three-decade rule of President Blaise Compaore. Last week’s coup drew condemnation from the United Nations, the U.S. and Europe, while the African Union suspended the nation’s membership.

Coup leader General Gilbert Diendere, the head of Compaore’s former presidential guard, bowed to demands from West African presidents to allow the transitional government to return to office. Members of the unit, known as the RSP, left the headquarters of the state-run television Wednesday and were replaced by army soldiers.

Diendere conceded late Wednesday that he had made a "big mistake."

"It’s time lost, I acknowledge. It’s resources lost, I acknowledge," he told reporters. "The putsch is over. There’s no need to talk about it any more."

National army chief Pingrenoma Zagre said on Wednesday after meeting regional mediators that the plan is to disarm RSP officers.

Amnesty Opposed

Pro-democracy activists oppose any amnesty for the soldiers who carried out the coup and want the presidential guard to be disbanded, Karim Sama, a founding member of the Balai Citoyen, or Citizen’s Broom, group said. They hoped that what has happened in Burkina Faso would signal the end of coups in West Africa, he said.

"Everyone must understand that the times of coups are over and we hope Burkina Faso can serve as an example to other countries so that the youth understands that it has to take action against those who prevent us from moving forward," Sama said by phone from Ouagadougou.

The return of the presidential guard to its barracks may calm unrest in the short term, said Rinaldo Depagne, Brussels-based International Crisis Group’s director for West Africa.

"What will they do if the transition leaders don’t go in their direction or if the president-elect is not the one they want?" he said by phone from the Senegalese capital, Dakar. "The fundamental problem is the involvement of the army in Burkina Faso’s political life."