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AU Demands Burkina Faso Military Hand Over Power

FILE - AU Commission Deputy Chairman Erastus Mwencha, condemning the coup in Burkina Faso, says "any change of power must follow the constitutional process."

The deputy chairman of the African Union Commission on Thursday condemned the overthrow of the administration in Burkina Faso and said the AU had demanded that military leaders immediately return power to the transitional government.

Erastus Mwencha said the AU Peace and Security Council would meet soon to review the situation in Burkina Faso and decide the organization’s next line of action.

The overthrow of the government Wednesday in Ouagadougou came less than three weeks before the scheduled general election on October 11. The election is aimed at ushering in a new, democratically elected leadership in the West African country.

The AU has often stated it is opposed to the forceful or unconstitutional seizure of power.

“We have demanded that the military junta that has now officially announced that it is a coup hand over power to the transitional authority that was there: the president, the prime minister and other relevant authorities,” Mwencha said. “Any government that is unconstitutional is automatically condemned, because we believe in the rule of law that any change of power must follow the constitutional process.”

Calling for calm

Mwencha called for calm in Burkina Faso as the African Union finds ways to resolve the situation.

“We can appeal for people not to cooperate, until such time that this military junta is really made to surrender power or any other actions that will be taken,” he said.

The Burkinabe presidential guard, which staged the coup, has appointed Brigadier General Gilbert Diendere, a former chief of security of former President Blaise Compaore, as chairman of the new ruling National Council for Democracy.

Compaore stepped down last October, following popular protests against his plans to amend the constitution. He had ruled for 27 years.

Diendere told VOA's French-to-Africa service Thursday that the military staged the coup against the transitional government because the country's political process was biased. He said he would start a political dialogue that included all parties and would lead to elections at a date to be determined.

The transitional government had barred Compaore supporters from seeking office, and a national reconciliation commission had recommended the powerful presidential guard be disbanded.

'No justification'

Mwencha said the African Union had poll observers in Burkina Faso ready to monitor the October general election.

“There is no justification whatsoever for this [military] to do this, especially at this point. And for that matter, if they don’t accede to the demand, we have also through the chairperson of the African Union convened the meeting of the Peace and Security Council, so that the Peace and Security Council can examine the state of matter, and then take the necessary steps as would be decided by the Security Council,” he said.

Mwencha said sanctions against masterminds of the military coup would be considered as the AU Peace and Security Council considered ways to address the government overthrow.

He said the AU was working closely with the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, and the U.N. Security Council to address Burkina Faso's situation, "so that we can face this as one.”