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Burkina breathes … and stays vigilant

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It’s been a couple of weeks full of ups and downs in the life of patriotic and conscientious Burkinabes everywhere, but especially those in the country.  On September 17th, they woke up to the news that a coup d’Etat had taken place and the author of the coup was none other than Gen. Gilbert Diendéré, right-hand man of ex-president Blaise Compaoré, who had to step down from power following a popular insurrection less than a year ago.  At just three weeks before the October 11th elections which would have ended the transition, many observers qualified the coup as being the “most stupid coup” in the history of coup d’Etats.

In the first few hours of the coup, Gen. Diendéré was being thought of as the new strong man of Burkina Faso, even if some wondered why the man who’d always shunned the limelight seemed to have no trouble stepping in it this time.  The argument that the hands of Blaise Compaoré were behind the coup were quickly put forward.  It is no secret that the proximity of the former president to Ouagadougou has never been thought as prudent by even the casual observer of the African political scene.

In July, both the Burkinabe prime minister and the president Michel Kafando made separate visits to Abidjan, the economical capital of Côte d’Ivoire where Blaise Compaoré was in exile.  Even though both visits were billed as courtesy and working visits, the Blaise Compaoré question couldn’t not be asked.  If Prime Minister Isaac Zida gave a somewhat unprepared answer, president Kafando was firmer, though diplomatic.

“ Blaise Compaoré being in Abidjan doesn’t bother us.  We just wouldn’t want him to have any intention to destabilise the country, or cause harm to the transition process “, he said.

For Gen. Diendéré however, the Blaise question is a non-question.

“I have not spoken to President Compaoré either before, or since the coup,” he said in an interview he gave France24 on the day of the coup.

True or false, no one knows.  One thing that is evident however is that Gen. Diendéré has been economic with the truth since the beginning of the coup, which, according to him was to restore “justice and democracy” because a political party, the CDP of Blaise Compaoré had been excluded from the forthcoming elections.  But rather than a whole party, it was just some people who had been excluded, having taken part in the failed project to modify the constitution which saw Blaise Compaoré leave power.  Or on the fact that he had the whole army.  It was later revealed, by himself, that he only had the RSP, the presidential guards, some 1300 men with him.  As for the rest of the army, they stayed quiet and in cities like Bobo-Dioulasso, the second biggest city in Burkina Faso after Ouagadougou, they gave a tacit support to the population who disregarded the curfew and went out to protest.

Protests that mount such pressure on Gen. Diendéré that he was forced to leave power, especially as the republican army, which had up until then been thought of keeping quiet due to a lack of the sophisticated arms the RSP had in ample supply, drove into Ouagadougou to disarm their brothers.  It wasn’t until yesterday, after an assault on Kosyam, the presidential palace where some recalcitrant members of the RSP were hiding, that Gen. Diendéré, who had been at the palace but had managed at the 11th hour, to find refuge within the Vatican embassy, surrendered.

He is now at the hands of the gendarmes, awaiting judgment on the September 17th coup, but also in other affairs such as the Thomas Sankara case in which his name has been cited.

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