Burkina Faso has edged ever closer to a civil war following last week’s military coup by General Gilbert Diendere and the National Council for Democracy, previously the Presidential Security Regiment. The coup, which you can get some background on here, left the fates of both Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida and interim President Michel Kafando up in the air after they were taken into custody.
Now it seems as if the coup leaders may be softening their position somewhat, with Zida having been released on September 22, and Kafando having escaped house arrest to seek refuge at the French Ambassador’s house without much opposition. Additionally, Diendere actually apologized to the citizens of the country over the weekend, and promised to restore a civilian government as soon as he can.
However, even as he says he is willing to do so, he is unwilling to do so before a deadline set by the Burkinabe military, who are now pouring into Ouagadougou, the nation’s capital city. He did say he would do so, however, if asked by the ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) who were meeting in Nigeria to lay out a plan to deal with the crisis.
Elections in the nation were initially scheduled for October 11, though ECOWAS. joined by France, is seeking to push that back until November 22 as part of a 12 point plan for compromise. That would put the elections more than a year after the previous crisis in October of 2014, which could lead to legal issues of its own. Additionally, Kafando objects to the proposals coming from ECOWAS, saying he was not included in the process.
Exclusion from the process may have been what sparked the coup in the first place. The elections being held by Kafando’s interim government were accused of seeking the denial of voting rights to many who were considered loyal to previous president Blaise Compaore, himself something of a power hungry leader. Diendere was Compaore’s right hand man for much of his presidency, though it appears Compaore now lives as an expatriate in Cote d’Ivoire and had little or nothing to do with this coup.
By all appearances, it seems as though Diendere has acted on his conscience for much of this, truly believing that he was doing the right thing and protecting the rights of disaffected voters. As it turns out, he may have overestimated not only his clout, but the issue at hand, as virtually the entire nation, including the military, has turned against him.
Protests were swift, and several turned violent. Over 100 people are known to have been injured, and at least 10 have been killed. It was this violence that prompted Diendere to soften his stance, offering an apology to the people of the country and expressing regret for the bloodshed.
Not sorry enough to surrender, it seems. Hopefully he will see that, despite his apparent good intentions, he has plunged a relatively stable nation into chaos only weeks before an election, and caused more death and destruction barely a year removed from another leader who wanted to stay in power, regardless of the consequences.