West African leaders and their military chiefs are to travel to Burkina Faso to reinstate the country’s interim leadership amid a standoff in the capital between an elite presidential guard behind a coup and the army.
An emergency meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) held in Abuja, Nigeria, decided that the leaders of Nigeria, Benin, the Nigeria Republic, Toga, Ghana and Senegal would travel to Burkina Faso with their military chiefs on Wednesday.
In a statement, Ecowas said it planned to reinstate and demonstrate solidarity with the interim president, Michel Kafando, who was kidnapped last Wednesday along with his interim prime minister, Yacouba Isaac, Zida. Kafando was released on Friday
The release of Zida on Tuesday, an apparent olive branch, came hours after army soldiers entered Ouagadougou without resistance.
Ecowas also called for calm and said an inclusive democratic process was important going forward.
The announcement came as the leader of the coup, General Gilbert Diendere, on Tuesday said he would abide by a deal reached with the mediators, but warned his men would defend themselves if attacked after the army entered the capital.
Diendere on Tuesday called for troops who entered Ouagadougou seeking a surrender by his elite army unit to leave the city, the AFP news agency reported.
“We do not want to fight but ultimately we will defend ourselves,” Diendere warned, nearly a week after his men detained the interim leaders who had been running the country since a popular uprising deposed iron-fisted president Blaise Compaore last October.
Earlier in the day, troops loyal to Burkina Faso’s deposed government said they had the means to attack the Camp Naaba military base near the capital’s presidential palace, which is held by troops who staged last Wednesday’s coup.
“The national armed forces who arrived yesterday in Ouagadougou could have attacked the Presidential Security Regiment [RSP] from the moment they entered, and they have the capacity and the means to do so,” the army chiefs said in a statement.
Loyalist troops have been massing in the capital on Tuesday and earlier told those behind the coup, which derailed a democratic transition process, to disarm and surrender by 10am (10am GMT) or face attack.
As the deadline expired, Diendere held a press conference, saying he was still in charge and that he was awaiting the outcome of the Ecowas summit.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Ouagadougou, said the situation in the capital was tense even as the country’s state TV channel was showing a wildlife documentary.
“Minutes before the deadline expired, General Diendere called a press conference and released a statement saying he wants to stand by the framework agreement that was negotiated with Ecowas,” Haque reported.
“The civil society and most of the people here don’t agree with this agreement. On the street right now people are following the orders of the military. The military has asked the people to retreat back home.
“The presidential guard has locked down the presidential palace. They are out in full force. They have also positioned themselves around Burkina Faso’s public television and radio station which is currently running [an] animal documentary.”
Diendere, who is a close ally of deposed long-term president Blaise Compaore, already had vowed to hand over power to a civilian transitional government, but not to the army.
At least 10 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in protests sparked by the coup, which came just weeks before what would have been the first elections since Compaore was ousted in a popular revolt last October after trying to extend his 27-year grip on power.
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