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AU Suspends Burkina Faso Over Coup


The African Union has suspended Burkina Faso because of Wednesday's coup, and is threatening sanctions against the coup leaders unless they free the country's interim president and prime minister.

The AU Peace and Security Council announced the decision after a meeting Friday in Addis Ababa. The Council said on Twitter that the AU will not recognize or support any political process in Burkina Faso outside the transition launched in November last year.

It said the detention of interim President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Zida and two other ministers constitutes an act of terrorism, and warned it will enact sanctions on perpetrators of the coup unless the officials are released immediately.

Kafando was said to be released earlier Friday but has not made any public appearance or statement. Zida reportedly remains under house arrest.

The coup leaders released a statement Friday saying they released Kafando and two government ministers, "as a sign of easing tensions and in the general interest."

Meanwhile, a U.S. diplomat says efforts are underway to convince the coup leaders to restore the transitional government and let the West African country proceed with elections.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield gave an exclusive interview to VOA's Mariama Diallo in Washington Friday.

Thomas-Greenfield said there was "no reason" for the soldiers behind Wednesday's coup to seize power and arrest the legally recognized government of Burkina Faso.

"So we're working with our partners in the region," she said, "to try to push them to make the right decisions to go back to their barracks and allow the transitional government to move into place so they can carry out these elections."

Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. ambassador in Burkina Faso and other officials have talked with the coup leaders, who come from the presidential guard of former Burkinabe president Blaise Compaore.

General Gilbert Diendere sits at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou, Sept. 17, 2015.

General Gilbert Diendere sits at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou, Sept. 17, 2015.

Rallies against coup

Opposition figures in Burkina Faso have called for demonstrations against the coup. Since Wednesday, soldiers have been patrolling the streets of the capital, Ouagadougou and breaking up groups of young people trying to assemble.

At least three people were reported killed Thursday as protesters attempted to gather near the presidential palace.

The transitional government in Burkina Faso took power last year after a popular uprising ousted longtime President Compaore, who planned to change the constitution to extend his rule.

Burkina Faso was scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections a little more than three weeks from now, on October 11. That date is now in limbo.

FILE - Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore announced he was stepping down following violent protests demanding an end to his 27-year rule, Oct. 31, 2014.

FILE - Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore announced he was stepping down following violent protests demanding an end to his 27-year rule, Oct. 31, 2014.

In an interview with VOA on Thursday, the head of the ruling council, General Gilbert Diendere, said soldiers carried out the coup because Burkina Faso's political process was biased.

Diendere complained that the transitional government had barred supporters of the toppled president from seeking office. Transitional authorities also recommended that Compaore's powerful presidential guard be disbanded.

Diendere, a longtime ally of Compaore, is head of the 1300-soldier guard.

The White House said Thursday that it "condemns in the strongest terms the unconstitutional seizure of power" in Burkina Faso. It called for the president and prime minister to be released immediately, for the coup leaders to stand down, for them to respect the rights of citizens to assemble peacefully, and for Burkina Faso to be put back on the road to October's presidential elections.

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