Sep 22, 2015 7:59 PM

Burkina Faso coup leader expected to hand power back

The Associated Press

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) Burkina Faso's coup leader is expected to hand power back on Wednesday to the transitional president he overthrew as regional leaders stepped up the pressure and soldiers converged on the capital from around the country threatening to disarm junta members.

The Economic Community of West African States also called on the junta to lay down their arms and for the military not to attack coup supporters as the regional bloc prepares to put the transitional leader, Michel Kafando, back into power.

There was a tense standoff in the capital Tuesday after Burkina Faso's coup leader, Gen. Gilbert Diendere, refused to heed a deadline for his men to lay down their arms even after troops opposing the takeover poured into the capital Ouagadougou.

Diendere instead said he would hand over power when requested by West African leaders of the regional economic bloc known as ECOWAS who met in Nigeria Tuesday.

The heads of states of Senegal, Togo, Benin, Niger, Ghana and Nigeria are now expected in Ouagadougou on Wednesday, ECOWAS said after its summit.

ECOWAS commission chairman Kadre Desire Ouedraogo and United Nations representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas will travel with the leaders, said the spokeswoman for Diendere's office, Yolande Kalwoule.

The regional body called on all parties to maintain order and to not take any actions that would upset the fragility of the situation in Burkina Faso.

Soldiers from all over this West African nation arrived in Ouagadougou in a show of force to convince the troops backing the coup to lay down their arms. Residents cheered the troops' arrival early Tuesday before they were asked to return to their homes.

As the deadline set by the military for the presidential guard, which mounted the coup last week, to return to their barracks by 10 a.m. (1000 GMT) passed, the streets were deserted with fearful residents staying home.

Diendere told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he was waiting for the results of talks on the crisis being held in Nigeria's capital by the ECOWAS leaders.

"I will hand over power to a civilian on the date recommended by the ECOWAS summit. I do not want to play a particular role in the transition," the former commander of the presidential guard said. "I do not want to be prime minister."

Diendere said he wants to avoid fighting between rival military units.

"We will find a solution between brothers in arms to avoid confrontations," he told a news conference on Tuesday.

Government troops loyal to the transitional government had assembled around the national radio and television stations and around barracks.

"I call on the population of Burkina Faso to remain calm and to have confidence in the National Armed Forces who have reaffirmed their unfailing commitment to preserve the unity of the nation," Gen. Pingrenoma Zagre said in a statement.

The transitional government was installed after long-term President Blaise Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising last October. Elections were to have been held next month but Diendere, who led the presidential guard and was an adviser to Compaore, had said that's too early.

West African mediators want Kafando to be reinstalled until elections can be held. Kafando has sought shelter at the residence of the French ambassador in Ouagadougou.

An electoral code passed earlier this year had banned members of Compaore's party from taking part in the election. The former ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress party said one of its leaders, Achilles Tapsoba, was arrested in the south of the capital.


Ahmed reported from Dakar, Senegal.


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