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.
Burkina Faso’s new interim government is set to hold its first meeting Monday, just three weeks after the army took over in the wake of a popular revolt that resulted in the resignation of President Blaise Compaore. While the new interim government will be in control of the West African country until presidential elections are held November 2015, it is evident that the country’s army will retain a powerful position – a move that has caused some concern across the country.
Officials confirmed Sunday that Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida will remain prime minister over the next year and will also take the defence minister post. Alain Thierry Ouattara, the new government secretary general announced Sunday that the military will also have control of the interior ministry. In all, four military members are included in the 26-member cabinet. Interim civilian President Michel Kafando will also b the country’s foreign minister. No opposition figures are among the members of the new interim government. This was done by choice as no one within the interim government will be allowed to stand in next year’s elections. This includes the interim president and prime minister.
President Kafando, a former diplomat, took office on Friday and will lead the country during the transitional 12-month period after veteran president Blaise Compaore was forced from power in a wave of popular unrest last month. The military has pledged to help bring the country back to full civilian rule. While the new government was initially expected to be unveiled on Thursday, and then Saturday, it was repeatedly held up by differences between the rival parties. According to sources, the delay was caused by the military’s opposition to several ministerial candidates who had been proposed by civil society groups.
Despite a civilian in power, the military’s control of the security services effectively means that army officers will remain a powerful political force. This has caused some civil society representatives to voice concern, particularly over Lt. Col. Zida’s appointment. Some residents of Ouagadougou have called the move a betrayal of their “revolution.”
The new government is set to hold its first cabinet meeting at 10:00 AM Monday
Meanwhile on Friday, ousted president Blaise Compaore flew to Morocco from the Ivory Coast, where he had fled after his long rule ended on 31 October. It currently remains unclear how long Mr Compaore will remain in Morocco.