The chaos in Burkina Faso may be subsiding almost as quickly as it began following last week’s coup attempt and subsequent violence. The coup leader, General Gilbert Diendere, handed the reigns of the country back over to the civilian government, led by interim President Michel Kafando, on September 23.
Diendere instigated the coup on September 17, believing the upcoming elections were unfair and going to disenfranchise supporters of the previous regime of Blaise Compaore, who was himself forced to resign last year after a failed power grab. Diendere arrested Kafando, along with Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, though the former escaped to the French ambassador’s home, and the latter was released on Monday by Diendere.
The situation came to a head over the weekend, when protesters clashed and several people were killed, along with scores of others injured. A seemingly contrite Diendere apologized to the people for the bloodshed, while at the same time defying deadlines given to him by the Burkinabe military as it closed in on the capital city of Ouagadougou.
Now it seems Diendere has completely reversed course, giving the country back to Kafando under international and regional pressure, not to mention the internal pressure from his people and the military. It seems he may have overestimated not only his popularity, but also how just his cause was perceived to be.
Six presidents from other nations in the region, part of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) flew into the capital to try to reason with Diendere, and they appear to have been successful. Not only did the general abdicate leadership back to the civilian government, he did so in an official and public ceremony, admitting that he was wrong.
Diendere went even further, calling the coup attempt “the biggest mistake,” acknowledging that the people were not with him, which is why he gave in. Additionally, he says he will take full responsibility for it, and that he’s “not afraid to face justice.”
The immediate future of Burkina Faso seems to have stabilized, but the election for new leadership to take over for the interim government now looms larger than ever. Certain issues have yet to be resolved, such as the questions over disenfranchisement and who is even eligible to run. Additionally, Diendere’s coup companions in the National Council for Democracy (formerly the Presidential Security Regiment) may face charges for their part in the action.
For now it seems that the Burkinabe people can have peace, and there will be an election at some point. But until those key details are worked out, it may be an uneasy situation for some time to come.