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Burkina Faso Ouagadougou General Gilbert Diendere
Image: picture alliance/Photoshot

Bukina Faso coup leader in custody

Fred Muvunyi (AFP, Reuters)
October 2, 2015

Burkina Faso’s interim government announced on Thursday that General Gilbert Diendere and his accomplices are to face military justice after their short-lived coup.


The leader of Burkina Faso's brief coup was in police custody on Thursday after handing himself in. Meanwhile the authorities have ramped up a probe into the temporary ousting of the transitional government last month.

General Gilbert Diendere, who had said several times that he was willing to face justice following the September 17 coup, was being held at the Paspanga police base near the centre of the Bukina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou.

Hamado Dipama, a political analyst based in Germany believes that Burkina Faso’s institutions including its military courts know exactly what the people want. He is convinced that justice will take its course. "These people are going to be held accountable for their alleged crimes including the murder of the former president Thomas Sankara." Hamado added.

Sankara met a mysterious death in 1987.

The general, who is the former chief of staff to ousted president Blaise Compaore, sought refuge at the residence of the Vatican's ambassador on Tuesday just before an army raid on the barracks of his elite military regiment.

"General Diendere and his accomplices will answer for all the offences of which they are accused," the interim government said in a statement, adding that a commission of inquiry was already "hard at work" investigating the coup. A military source said military justice would deal with Diendere.

Burkina Faso Ouagadougou Putsch
Burkina Faso's coup in mid-September ended when a deal was brokered by regional mediatorsImage: Reuters/J. Penney

Six officers who took part in the coup were arrested on Wednesday, while Lieutenant Colonel Mamadou Bamba, who had read the coup plotters' statements on television, handed himself over to police the following day.

‘No death penalty’

The Presidential guard (RSP) loyal to Compaore declared a coup on September 17, a day after detaining interim President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Isaac Zida.

They complained that pro-Compaore candidates were being barred from running in elections originally set for October 11, but which have since been delayed.

Facing heavy international pressure, the coup plotters agreed to a peace deal brokered by the West African regional bloc (ECOWAS) under which the interim leadership would return to power. The coup plotters themselves would stand down and their safety and that of their families would be guaranteed.

Under Burkina Faso's penal code, the coup plotters could be sentenced to death if convicted by a military court.

However, Hamado Dipama believes this is unlikely. "I don't think he (General Diendere) will be given the death penalty as stipulated by the law," he said.

At least 11 people were killed and 271 injured in protests triggered by the coup. Tensions soared on Tuesday as some members of the RSP refused to disarm, sparking a standoff with the army at the regiment's barracks which ended when the coup plotters abandoned their base after sustaining heavy weapons fire.

Guy-Herve Kam of Balai Citoyen, a prominent civil society group that helped sweep Compaore from power in mass protests last year, urged authorities not only to investigate crimes committed during the coup, "but all those in which the General (Diendere) could be implicated".

"This opens the way for elections to take us out of the transition," Kam added. "The resistance (to the coup) has shown a collective drive for the defense of democracy in Burkina Faso."

Burkina Faso Ouagadougou General Gilbert Diendere
General Gilbert Diendere is expected to face military justiceImage: Getty Images/AFP/S. Kambou

Diendere is deeply unpopular in the capital, and news of his arrest was cheered on the streets.

"I'm very happy," said Omar, a 24-year-old vendor.

Earlier, a senior army source told the news agency AFP that a majority of RSP troops had joined loyalist units since their regiment was disbanded under the peace deal.

"Over 800 men" out of the 1,300 in the RSP that staged the September 17 coup had taken up new postings, a source in the army high command said.

Those who have yet to join loyalist forces had until Friday (02.10.2015) to show up at their new units and those who failed to do so "will be considered deserters," the source said.

On Wednesday, interim President Kafando said he believed the country had "turned the page" on the unrest. He promised to turn his attention to fixing an election date in consultation with all parties concerned.

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