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Burkina Faso coup leaders release interim president, two ministers
Burkina Faso’s military has released interim President Michel Kafando two days after detaining him along with the country’s premier and two cabinet ministers and dissolving the transitional government in the African country.
“As a sign of easing tensions and in the general interest, the national council for democracy has decided on the release of ministers and Michel Kafando,” a Friday statement by the junta said in reference to the council formed by the coup leaders.
General Gilbert Diendere, the coup leader and a close ally of former President Blaise Compaore – who was himself toppled in 2014 – said Kafando was released to prepare the ground for political dialog.
He made the comments two days after his forces stormed a cabinet meeting and seized Kafando, Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida and two of his ministers. The coup leaders also announced the dissolution of the interim government and parliament, which had been tasked with leading the political transition in Burkina Faso after Compaore’s ouster in 2014.
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Diendere was named as Burkina Faso’s new leader despite condemnations from the West and the African Union (AU).
Kafando’s interim government had set October 11 for presidential and legislative elections, which would be the first in the landlocked West African nation since Compaore was forced out of power last year amid angry anti-government protests against his attempts to change the constitution and seek another term in office.
General Diendere further said, “Our wish is to reorganize ourselves and to move toward elections soon,” without elaborating on a potential timetable.
“But we plan to discuss all that with the concerned actors, notably the political parties and civil society organizations to establish a timetable that allows us to move toward presidential and parliamentary elections,” he added.
At least three people died and 60 others were injured in the street clashes that erupted outside the presidential palace in the capital, Ouagadougou, on Thursday following Kafando’s detention. Security forces also detained an unknown number of protesters.
Reports said that Kafando is in good health. Diendere said Kafando has been in his official residence since he was released late on Thursday. Prime Minister Zida will also remain under house arrest.
Meanwhile, demonstrations continued in the capital on Friday, with protesters burning tires and blocking streets in the city. Gunshots were also heard, with eyewitnesses saying they were fired by security forces to disperse protesters.
Talks are supposed to begin soon in Ouagadougou with the mediation of Senegal’s President Macky Sall and President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin