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West African Leaders Try to Mediate Burkina Faso Crisis

Niger's President Mahamaduo Issoufou, Benin's President Boni Yayi, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, and Senegalese President and Chairman of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Macky Sall attend an ECOWAS heads of state summit on the political crisis in Burkina Faso, in Abuja, Nigeria, Sept. 22, 2015.

The leaders of four West African nations are traveling to Burkina Faso in hopes of resolving that nation's government crisis after a coup last week.

The presidents of Senegal, Togo, Benin and Nigeria were due to travel to Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, Tuesday evening to negotiate a peaceful rollback of the takeover by the country's presidential guard.

Coup leader General Gilbert Diendere has said he will hand over power when requested by West African leaders of the regional body ECOWAS, who met in Nigeria earlier Tuesday.

General Diendere apologized to the country and said he is planning to hand over power to a civilian government. He told VOA's French to Africa Service on Monday that he wants to avoid bloodshed.

A protester holds a Burkina Faso national flag during a protest against a recent coup in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Sept. 21, 2015.
A protester holds a Burkina Faso national flag during a protest against a recent coup in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Sept. 21, 2015.

French Ambassador Gilles Thibault said on Twitter that President Michael Kafando was freed by coup leaders and is now at the "French residence."

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has recommended that U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso leave the West African nation, citing an uncertain security situation. It also recommended against travel to the landlocked country.

Tense Environment

Ouagadougou has been tense since army troops poured into the capital to negotiate the surrender of the coup leaders. Residents cheered the troops' arrival early Tuesday before they were asked to return to their homes.

Army spokesman Captain Herve Ye told VOA the army wants the presidential guard to surrender and move to a base near Nation's Square, a public gathering place in the capital.

A reporter for VOA in Ouagadougou, Emilie Lob, said the streets of the capital emptied out as word spread that the army was coming.

The presidential guard overthrew Burkina Faso's transitional government last Wednesday, less than a month before elections. Diendere said the polls were "biased," because supporters of former president Blaise Compaore were barred from running.

Compaore ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years before being ousted in a popular uprising last year, when he tried to change the constitution to extend his presidency.

Protests against the coup turned violent, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 100.

West African negotiators announced a plan Sunday to restore civilian authority but offer amnesty to the coup leaders. Under the plan, the elections originally set for October 11 would be held sometime before November 22.