Burkino Faso coup leaders yield under army threat; clash averted


– Serious violence appeared to have been averted Monday as the leader of last week’s coup gave up at the last minute as the army started moving tanks to the capital to end the coup.

In a statement broadcast by state television, the coup leader and head of the presidential guard, Brigadier General Gilbert Diendere, apologized to his country and the international community for his actions.

He said he would yield to the peace plan proposed on Sunday by the international community that calls for the return of power to a civilian government.

Diendere’s 1,200-member group of elite troops last Wednesday seized interim President Michel Kafando and other government figures and detained them.

Kafando expressed doubts about the proposed peace plan.

Witnesses said they saw dozens of tanks moving toward the capital Ouagadougou form army bases elsewhere in the west African country.

An army communique by Chief of Staff Pingrenoma Zagre called on the presidential guard to lay down its arms, promising that its members would not be harmed. Francois Hollande, president of the former French colonial ruler, also called for the coup backers to yield.

The army had decided to “liberate the Burkinabe people,” local radio station Omega FM reported.

Citizens applauded tanks as they passed by while Ouagadougou residents erected barricades to prevent the presidential guard from blocking their entry into the capital.

Protests against the coup continued throughout the country, but no violence was reported Monday.

About 10 people have been killed so far by members of the presidential guard firing at demonstrators.

Political parties and civil society representatives reflected some of the concern expressed by kafando about the peace plan proposed Sunday by the Beninese and Senegalese presidents.

The presidents were part of an initiative by the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to avert bloodshed. ECOWAS is to discuss the document Tuesday in Abuja.

The plan foresees an amnesty for members of the presidential guard who seized power last week.

The plan would also drop a ban on loyalists of former president Blaise Compaore contesting elections, and allow them to participate. Elections to replace the interim government had been planned for October 11, but are now proposed for November 22 under the ECOWAS plan.

Diendere had headed the presidential guard under Compaore.

The interim government took office after Compaore fled the country in October following massive protests against his plans to extend his 27-year rule.

Kafando, who has been released in recent days, and Diendere met the mediators separately.