The head of the country’s electoral commission disclosed on Monday that Burkina Faso should announce provisional election results on Monday.
Speaking at a news conference late on Sunday, Barthelemy Kere, president of the Independent National Electoral Commission, disclosed that there was a strong turnout in all 45 provinces and that logistical problems at the start of the day were by-and-large resolved, adding that the elections were peaceful. The electoral commission has announced results for 21 communes, out of a total of 368 communes. The results show that Roch Marc Kabore is in the lead, with Zephirin Diabre in second.
On Sunday, Burkina Faso voted in an election to choose the West African country’s first new president in decades. On the ground sources have reported that people formed long lines at polling stations to vote for the president. Polls closed at 6 PM local time. A second round will be held if no candidate secures a majority. The country’s election commission has disclosed that over five million people are registered to vote, adding that it will publish preliminary results as soon as Monday. A successful election in Burkina Faso would effectively establish the country as a beacon for democratic aspirations in Africa, where veteran leaders in Burundi and Congo Republic have changed constitutions in a bid to pave the way for fresh terms in office. Furthermore, Sunday’s election also represents a turning point for the country, which, for most of its history since gaining independence from France in 1960, has been ruled by leaders who came to power in coups.
The leader of the country’s short-lived coup was in police custody after he handed himself in as authorities ramped up a probe into last month’s putsch.
Sources have reported that General Gilbert Diendere, who had indicated several times that he was willing to face justice following the 17 September coup, was being held at the Paspanga police base, which is located near the centre of the capital. News of his arrest was met with cheers on the streets of Ouagadougou. On Tuesday, the general sought refuge at the residence of the Vatican’s ambassador just before an army raid on the barracks of his elite military regiment. In a statement, the interim government disclosed that “general Diendere and his accomplices will answer for all the offences of which they are accused,” adding that a commission of inquiry was already “hard at work” investigating the coup. A military source has disclosed that military justice will deal with General Diendere. On Wednesday, six officers who took part in the coup were arrested while lieutenant colonel Mamadou Bamba, who had read the coup plotters’ statements on television, handed himself over to police the following day. Interim authorities have accused General Diendere, who has been involved in several negotiations for hostages held by Tuareg groups in the Sahel region, of “mobilizing foreign forces and jihadis groups” in the coup. He has rejected these allegations.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the vice president of a Tuareg rebel movement, Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, was briefly arrested at Ouagadougou airport over suspected links to the coup. According to a source, Djeri Maiga, the vice president of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), “was arrested over allegations that he provided logistical support to the coup.” He was held Thursday afternoon at Ouagadougou airport as he tried to board a plane to leave the country. He was released after several hours.
According to a senior army source, a majority of troops from the presidential guard (RSP) had joined loyalist units after their regiment was disbanded under the peace agreement and assigned to other unites. A source in the army high command has disclosed that more than 800 men of the RSP’s 1,300-strong force have taken up new postings, adding that the remainder are being sought. The military source indicated that those who have yet to join loyalist forces have until Friday in order to show up at their new postings, adding that if they fail to do so, they “will be considered deserters.”
On Tuesday, Burkina Faso’s soldiers met little resistance as they entered a presidential guard camp in the capital where members of the elite unit were holding out after this month’s short-lived coup.
Residents of the Ouaga 2000 district in the capital city have reported hearing bursts of gunfire in the late afternoon as troops, who had surrounded the base for most of the day, moved in. A source, who was in command of part of the operation, has reported that General Gilbert Diendere, the leader of the coup, was not in the camp. The officer further disclosed that “…We don’t totally control the camp, but we’re carrying out clean-up operations,” adding that Diendere’s vehicle had been destroyed by soldiers near the diplomatic compound and that the general is believed to have sought refuge inside.
Earlier in the day, an army spokesman had reported that about 300 of the presidential guard’s estimated 1,200 soldiers had surrendered at a second camp in the capital city, adding that regular army troops had taken control of strategic locations that had previously been occupied by the renegades.
A week after a military takeover, Burkina Faso’s interim President Michel Kafando announced on Wednesday that he is back in charge and that civilian rule has been restored. His announcement however came as coup leader General Gilbert Diendere went to welcome a number of African leaders arriving to oversee the transfer of power. Overnight, his presidential guard agreed to a deal with the regular army in a bid to avoid further violence. They also pledged to return to their barracks and the army to withdraw from the capital Ouagadougou.
Speaking to reporters at the foreign ministry, Kafando confirmed that he has “…returned to work.” However at around the same time, around 5 km (3 miles) away, coup leader General Gilbert Diendere appeared at the aiport, where he was backed by a continent of his presidential guard, to welcome regional leaders arriving to try to negotiate an end to the crisis. Sources have reported that Interim President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida will mark their return to power in an official handover ceremony in Ouagadougou later on Wednesday, adding that until then, Diendere will remain in power. The two leaders were arrested by members of the presidential guard a week ago.
In recent days, the country’s army deployed troops into the capital in a bid to press Diendere and his soldiers to cede power. The military threatened to disarm them by force if they failed to step down. While troops loyal to the government, who had arrived in the capital from bases across the country, were not visible on the streets of Ouagadougou, presidential guard soldiers maintained their positions at the national television headquarters despite an agreement signed over night between the two sides, under which they were to be confined to barracks in order to avoid clashes.
On Monday, French Special Forces rescued a Dutch civilian who was kidnapped nearly four years ago in Mali by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants.
France’s defense ministry confirmed Monday that Sjaad Rijke, 54, who was kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, was freed during “military action carried out by the French army’s Special Forces,” adding that “this combat action has also led to the capture of several individuals.” Rijke was freed in a pre-dawn raid. He was temporarily transferred to a base in Tessalit before arriving in the Malian capital Bamako on Tuesday. Sources close to the case have disclosed that the operation occurred near Tessalit, in Mali’s far north region near the border with Algeria. According to Lieutenant Colonel Michel Sabatier, a spokesman for Barkhane, which is France’s counter-insurgency operation in the region, French forces killed two militants and captured two others in the operation.
Gunmen had stormed into Rijke’s hotel in Timbuktu in 2011, capturing him along with a South African and a Swedish national, both of who are still being held. Rijke’s wife managed to escape the attack. In November 2014, AQIM released a video of Rijke, making a statement on the 1000th day of his captivity.
Romanian National Kidnapped in Burkina Faso
On Saturday afternoon, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Romanian security officer from a manganese mining project in northern Burkina Faso, near the border with Mali’s northern desert region.
According to security officials, the kidnapping took place at the Tambao project. Souleymane Mihin, Burkina Faso managing director for Pan African Minerals, confirmed the incident, stating “there was an attack on one of our patrols. They kidnapped the Romanian leading the patrol. The driver was wounded in the foot. A gendarme was seriously injured.” Late Saturday, the Romanian foreign ministry issued a statement confirming the kidnapping of a Romanian national and disclosing that a crisis cell has been set up in order to handle the case.
A Burkinabe security source has revealed that five gunmen were involved in the attack and that they, along with the hostage, were heading towards the nearby border with northern Mali. This has resulted in Burkinabe authorities indicating that they are planning to cross into Mali and Niger in search of the kidnappers. A Burkinabe minister disclosed Sunday “search operations are continuing. We are talking to our neighbours Mali and Niger to obtain rights to their territory in order to get our hands on the kidnappers. This is an area which borders the two countries, so the sweep will roll out in both directions.” Burkina Faso’s Regiment of Presidential Security, which is an elite secret service that specializes in anti-terrorism, has been deployed to Tambao in a bid to strengthen an army detachment, which arrived in the town on Saturday. Residents in Tambao have disclosed that security forces have begun “intensive searches” of vehicles in towns across the north, adding, “police are systematically searching vehicles.”