West African delegation calls for all sides to refrain from violence
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Burkina Faso coup leader Gilbert Diendéré told FRANCE 24 he would abide by the decisions of the ECOWAS regional block, which called on all sides late Tuesday to refrain from violence and said it was dispatching a delegation to mediate the crisis.
General Gilbert Diendéré said he was still in charge despite the passing of a deadline set by loyalist troops, who entered the capital, Ouagadougou, late on Monday vowing to reinstate the country's interim government.
"I'm not stalling for time. I'm within the time allotted to me," he told a news conference. "I am still the president of the National Democratic Council (junta)."
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 on Tuesday, Diendéré called for calm and urged that all sides accept the outcome of mediation efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“I’m asking that everyone remain calm and I’m asking that everyone accepts whatever decision ECOWAS makes so that we can move on,” he said.
Media reports said that despite seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis, Diendéré warned that his troops would respond if attacked. "We do not want to fight but ultimately we will defend ourselves," he said.
The head of Burkina Faso’s army, Pingrenoma Zagré, told FRANCE 24 on Tuesday that he also wanted “to avoid confrontation”.
ECOWAS leaders met in closed-door talks in Nigeria's capital of Abuja on Tuesday to discuss a 12-point plan presented last weekend by the body's current president, Macky Sall of Senegal.
"They have decided to dispatch tomorrow (Wednesday) a delegation of heads of state to go to Ouagadougou to re-establish Michel Kafando in his function as president of the transition of Burkina Faso," said ECOWAS commission president Kadre Desire Ouedraogo.
The delegation will come from Nigeria, Niger, Togo, Ghana, Benin and Senegal, Ouedraogo said.
Ouedraogo, a former Burkinabe prime minister before becoming ECOWAS commission president, said the heads of state "called on the presidential guards to disarm and demanded the other unit of the army not to use force” to avoid loss of human lives.
Military and humanitarian observers from member states would be sent to Burkina Faso "to monitor respect for human rights", Ouedraogo said.
Few people ventured out onto the streets of the capital on Tuesday, as Diendéré's forces held the presidential palace while troops opposing the coup deployed at most other strategic points.
Military sources said negotiations between army chiefs and coup leaders had resumed after breaking down earlier in the day.
But the head of Burkina Faso’s transitional parliament, Moumina Cheriff Sy, who has declared himself interim leader, later issued a decree dissolving the elite presidential guard, which carried out a coup last week.
“The interim president of the transition ... decrees ... the Presidential Security Regiment is dissolved,” read the decree.
The coup derailed a transition in the landlocked West African country, which had been preparing for an election on October 11. The vote was designed to restore democracy nearly a year after an uprising toppled longtime President Blaise Compaoré.
Prime minister released
Diendéré has said he will step aside once the regional leaders endorse a peace plan that includes an amnesty for coup plotters.
In an apparent olive branch, he ordered the release of interim prime minister Isaac Zida, who had been held hostage since the revolt began.
A former spy chief, Diendéré and his elite presidential guard rebelled last Wednesday, raiding a cabinet meeting and detaining the government.
At least 10 people were killed and more than 100 injured in protests sparked by the coup, ahead of what would have been the first elections since Compaoré was ousted in a popular revolt last October after trying to extend his 27-year grip on power.
The putsch sparked international uproar, with former colonial power France urging coup leaders to surrender and an African delegation attempting to mediate in the crisis.
French President François Hollande demanded "all those involved in the putsch to immediately lay down their arms and hand over power to the legitimate authorities – or face the consequences". France also suspended all financial and military aid to the country until the return of civilian rule.
A similar call was also issued by the presidents of Niger and Chad, who called on the renegade soldiers to "return to the barracks" and hand back power to the transitional administration.
Protesters slam amnesty plan
The draft deal provided for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held by November 22 at the latest, and crucially allowed for pro-Compaoré candidates to take part after they complained about being excluded from the October vote.
ECOWAS mediators said the fate of Diendéré's presidential guard should be decided by a future Burkinabe leader.
They have also proposed an amnesty for those behind the coup – a suggestion that has sparked widespread anger on the streets.
But civil society activists who played a major role in the uprising that toppled Compaoré have condemned the ECOWAS proposals, with the main Balai Citoyen (Civic Broom) group branding the deal "shameful".
"We cannot accept the amnesty. There are comrades who have fallen and ECOWAS is telling us to extend an amnesty," said Mady Ouedraogo, a spokesman for Balai Citoyen.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)