A Burkina Faso general, who served as top military aide to former dictator, Blaise Compaore, for three decades, was named Thursday as the leader of a coup that sacked the West African nation’s interim government.
Gilbert Diendere, a former chief-of-staff to Mr. Compaore, was named the head of the new junta called the National Council for Democracy.
Under Mr. Compaore, Mr. Diendere, a spy operator, played a central role in negotiating the release of Western hostages seized by Islamist groups in the arid Sahel, reports Reuters.
The military had earlier announced the dissolution of the transitional government, a day after personnel from the country’s elite presidential guard unit arrested the interim president and prime minister.
President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Yacouba Zida were detained by soldiers who stormed a cabinet meeting, plunging the poor West African country into chaos and uncertainty.
Protesters took to the streets to protest the military takeover amid reports 10 people had been shot dead by the presidential guards.
Demonstrators ransacked the headquarters of Mr. Compaore’s Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party in Ouagadougou, the capital.
The unrest comes days before the country’s first election since the ouster of Mr. Compaore, a former military officer and civilian president, who was forced out by popular uprising in 2014 after holding power for 27 years.
The military’s action also came days after a government committee recommended dissolving the elite military unit, an arm that helped Mr. Compaore stay in power for so long.
Stripped of functions
A spokesperson for the coup leaders, Lt. Col. Mamadou Bamba, said on television that the interim president, Mr. Kafando, had been stripped of his functions and the government dissolved.
“We have put in place a national democracy council tasked with organising democratic and inclusive elections,” he said.
Moumina Cheriff Sy, the speaker of the transitional parliament, called the coup “a blow to the republic and its institutions”.
He called on the larger military to halt a coup by elite unit, and said he would assume leadership until the president was released, Reuters reported.
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the coup, and called for the immediate release of the leaders.
The United States also called for the immediate release of the interim president, prime minister.
French President Francois Hollande condemned the coup. He called for the release of the president and prime minister, and the continuation of the electoral process.
The choice of Mr. Diendere as the leader of the military junta is seen by many as the return of Mr. Compaore, through the back door.
A communique read by the coup leaders appeared to give boost to that speculation.
The statement said the electoral process was discriminatory and had created “divisions and frustrations amongst the people”, a reference to a policy that barred loyalists of Mr. Compaore and those who backed his tenure elongation bid, from being part of the election.
“The transition has progressively distanced itself from the objectives of refounding our democracy,” the statement said.
The coup leader, Mr. Diendere, however, denied the coup was sponsored by Mr. Compaore. He said he had “no contact” with the former ruler.
“All change of this type can lead to violence. I am conscious of that … everything will be done to avoid violence that could plunge the country into chaos,” Mr. Diendere said on France 24 television.