Ousted president's right-hand man named new leader in Burkina Faso

2015-09-17 14:26

Ouagadougou (dpa) - A general close to former president Blaise Compaore was appointed the head of a military council that took power in Burkina Faso on Thursday, a spokesman announced on national television.

Gilbert Diendere thus becomes the national leader after a coup by the presidential guard dissolved the government and parliament, putting an end to a transitional period that had followed Compaore's ouster nearly a year ago.

Diendere, who headed the presidential guard under Compaore, was known as the ousted president's right-hand man.

The government transition had been due to culminate in elections in about three weeks' time.

Soldiers from the Presidential Security Regiment interrupted a cabinet session on Wednesday, arresting interim President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Zida and several other ministers.

Kafando, Zida and two other ministers were then taken to a military base inside the presidential compound, radio broadcaster Omega FM reported before soldiers closed the station on Wednesday.

The coup leaders announced the dissolution of the transitional institutions and pledged to seek negotiations "to form a government which will dedicate itself to restoring political order in the country" before elections were held.

They accused the transitional authorities of dividing the nation and called for "inclusive" elections, an indication that they disapproved of a ban that had prevented Compaore loyalists from contesting the elections set for October 11.

Land and air frontiers have been closed and a curfew imposed from 19:00 to 06:00.

Demonstrations against the coup continued, with soldiers firing shots to disperse protesters. Witnesses said some people were injured.

French President Francois Hollande and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for the release of the interim leaders and the re-establishment of the transitional process.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the coup a serious violation of Burkina Faso's constitution and its interim government.

The 1,300-member presidential guard is believed to have been unsatisfied with plans to dissolve it and integrate it into the military police.

The coup leaders may also have sought to avoid being put on trial for involvement in repression of the opposition in the Compaore era, analysts said.

Kafando was chosen interim president in November, after Compaore fled to Ivory Coast following massive protests against his plans to extend his 27-year rule.

The African Union threatened Burkina Faso with sanctions unless power was handed over to civilians, and an agreement was reached on a transitional period.

Compaore is believed to be in Morocco, the magazine Jeune Afrique reported.

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