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Burkina Faso Coup Leaders to Face Sanctions

Anti-coup protesters sing the Burkinabe national anthem in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Sept. 22, 2015.

Experts are compiling a list of individuals who will face targeted sanctions for their roles in last week’s overthrow of Burkina Faso’s transitional government, an African Union official said Tuesday.

Ambassador Mull S. Katende, chairman of the AU’s Peace and Security Council, said coup leaders would face sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes. His comments came after the leaders ignored the AU council’s Tuesday deadline of 10 a.m. GMT to put down their weapons and transfer power to a civilian administration.

Coup leader General Gilbert Diendere defied the ultimatum, saying he would hand over power only when requested to do so by West African leaders of the regional body Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). They met in Nigeria Tuesday.

"I will hand over power to a civilian on the date recommended by the ECOWAS summit. I do not want to play a particular role in the transition," the former presidential guard commander told the Associated Press. "I do not want to be prime minister."

The presidents of Senegal, Togo, Benin and Nigeria were expected to travel late Tuesday to Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, to try to negotiate a peaceful rollback of the takeover by the presidential guards.

Burkina Faso was suspended from all African Union activities following the overthrow of the transitional government tasked with leading the country to elections scheduled for October 11.

Coup leaders cornered

Katende said the African Union was working closely with the ECOWAS regional bloc to help restore power to the overthrown transitional administration in Ouagadougou.

He said a committee of experts, working in coordination with ECOWAS, would "compile names of all those involved" and target them for tough, uncompromising sanctions.

"The coup leaders are in a kind of a corner right now: The region is against them, the African Union is against them, [and] the international community is against them, so they are trying to find a way out," Katende said.

It’s "important that we return to the status quo" established last year, he added, “so that there [is] a general election in Burkina Faso next month.”

Critics say the African Union should implement a mechanism to deter forceful government takeovers, which plunge countries into political and security crises.

Africa "is perhaps the only continent on this Earth that has such measures. We have it inscribed in the [AU] Constitutive Act that anybody who takes power by force” faces sanctions, Katende said. He noted the AU was the first body to condemn the coup and call for the Burkinabe presidential guard to return power immediately to the transitional government.

Sanctions work, he continued, saying they have reduced the rate of military coups and, “in many cases, we have had the situations reversed and corrected.”