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Military confirms coup in Burkina Faso; dissolves government; as Amnesty Int’l calls for release of President, PM

Burkinabes demonstrating near the presidential palace, Wednesday after soldiers arrested Burkina Faso’s Transitional President and Prime Minister in Ouagadougou.
Burkinabes demonstrating near the presidential palace, Wednesday after soldiers arrested Burkina Faso’s Transitional President and Prime Minister in Ouagadougou.

Burkina Faso’s military took to the airwaves, Thursday to declare it now controls the West African country, confirming that a coup has taken place just weeks before national elections.

The announcement aired on national television and radio said the transitional government was dissolved and the interim president no longer in power.

The coup leaders, who come from an elite presidential guard unit that had disagreed publicly with the transitional government in recent months, identified themselves as the National Council for Democracy.

Their public statement confirmed what many suspected Wednesday when the transitional president and prime minister were arrested and barricades were erected around the presidency.

The communique read by Lt. Col. Mamadou Bamba criticized the electoral code, which blocked members of the ex-president’s party from taking part in the Oct. 11 elections. Anyone who supported the ex-president’s bid to amend the constitution so he could seek another term is also banned from running.

Bamba, Thursday, announced the beginning of a “coherent, fair and equitable process” that would lead to inclusive elections. The power grab violated the country’s constitution.

The transitional government came to power after the president of 27 years, Blaise Compaore, was ousted late last year in a public uprising. Demonstrators at one point had set fire to the parliament building to protest his move to amend the constitution so he could prolong his rule.

Meanwhile, reacting, Thursday, to the development in Burkina Faso, human rights watchdog, the Amnesty International, has called on the military junta to effect an ‘immediate and unconditional release of members of the transitional government who have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention, including interim President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Colonel Isaac Zida, and the reopening of radio stations that have been shut down.’

The body in a statement also told the Presidential Guard to ’stop using lethal force, beatings and other violence to repress protests and release arbitrarily detained members of the transitional government.’

“With large protests announced in response to the dissolution of the transitional government, members of the presidential guard (RSP, Regiment de Sécurité Présidentielle) must refrain from again using excessive force against peaceful protestors.

“Civilians with gunshot wounds have already been registered at local hospitals in Ouagadougou, while there are also reports of deaths. Amnesty International has spoken with an eyewitness who saw the dead body of one person killed by bullets.

“The situation in Burkina Faso is deeply worrying. The interim president and all those detained must be immediately freed and their physical integrity protected,” said Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty International’s West Africa Researcher said.

Continuing, the Amnesty International official said: “The security forces must respect the right of the population to protest peacefully, and take action to avoid any more deaths or injuries. There is also no excuse for cutting off radio stations or intimidating journalists.

“Freedom of expression must be protected. Steps must be taken urgently to ensure the media can freely and fully report, and that peoples’ right to access information is upheld.”

The detention of members of the executive and the announcement by members of the RSP that the transitional government was being dissolved has triggered protests in the capital, Ouagadougou and other cities across the country including Bobo Dioulasso.

The coup d’état comes just two days after the National Reconciliation and Reforms Commission recommended that the RSP be disbanded following accusations that its guards opened fire on unarmed protesters during last year’s anti-government protests.

Amnesty International recalled that in January this year, it had published a report stating that security forces loyal to Burkina Faso’s ousted president Blaise Compaoré used live ammunition against largely peaceful protesters, leaving at least 10 dead and hundreds injured during October 2014’s protests.

The document called on authorities to fulfil their obligation to respect the right to demonstrate peacefully and to prohibit the use of excessive, arbitrary, unjustified and abusive force against protesters; as well as respect and protect the right of journalists to carry out their profession, free from fear of intimidation and threats.

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