Urgent Burkina Faso talks as army set to attack presidential guard


Ouagadougou (dpa) – The leader of the Burkina Faso coup and the chief of the army were conducting last-minute talks on Tuesday to avoid bloodshed as the army prepared to launch an attack on the presidential guard, media reports and witnesses said.

Radio station Omega FM reported that Brigadier General Gilbert Diendere, who headed a coup by the presidential guard last week, was negotiating with army chief Pingrenoma Zagre.

As demonstrators gathered in central Ouagadougou, soldiers told them to go home, saying the army was preparing an attack, witnesses said.

The army is reported to have given the presidential guard until 10 am GMT to surrender.

The presidential guard had earlier released Prime Minister Isaac Zida, who was arrested together with President Michel Kafando and two ministers last week. The three others had been released earlier.

Hundreds of members of the 1,200-member presidential guard were seen going to an army camp west of Ouagadougou to surrender.

But Diendere and his supporters stayed at a presidential guard base inside the presidential palace.

They were expected to surrender only if the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) confirms the peace plan its mediators proposed during a visit to Burkina Faso over the weekend.

ECOWAS was scheduled to hold a summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday.

The plan, proposed by the Senegalese and Beninese presidents, foresees an amnesty for the coup plotters and would allow loyalists of ousted president Blaise Compaore to contest the upcoming elections.

Compaore loyalists had been excluded from the elections. Their participation is one of the key demands of Diendere, who headed the presidential guard under Compaore.

But Burkina Faso’s political parties and civil society groups were expected to oppose the ECOWAS peace plan, which would allow the coup plotters to go unpunished.

Kafando told Radio France Internationale that he was “very reserved” about the plan and said the ECOWAS mediators had not consulted him about it.

Dozens of army tanks were seen heading for Ouagadougou on Monday. The army has issued a communique promising that members of the presidential guard who surrender will not be harmed.

The interim government took office after Compaore fled the country nearly a year ago, following massive protests against plans to extend his 27-year rule.

Elections were originally set for October 11. The ECOWAS mediators proposed November 22 as a new date.