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Burkina Faso's 'Army Within an Army' Has Detained the President and His Entire Cabinet

Soldiers from the country’s powerful presidential guard interrupted a cabinet meeting and detained the participants two days after a commission proposed dissolving the elite unit.
Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters

Soldiers from Burkina Faso's powerful presidential guard interrupted a cabinet meeting on Wednesday and detained the ministers, the prime minister, and interim President Michel Kafando, military sources told Reuters.

The move came two days after a commission charged with drafting reforms for Burkina Faso's transitional government proposed dismantling the elite unit. The presidential guard, known as the RSP, was a key pillar of President Blaise Compaore's regime before he was toppled by demonstrations in October after 27 years in power.


"It is the whole of the government, including the prime minister and the president, taken by a group of soldiers from the presidential guard," said one senior military source. "They have not asked for anything for the time being."

Journalists from state television, who had gone to film the cabinet meeting, confirmed that the cabinet had been detained by soldiers. Civil society activist Souleymane Ouedraogo said on his Facebook page that the soldiers were demanding the Kafando's resignation. These claims could not be independently verified.

Related: Burkina Faso on The Brink of Political Crisis Ahead of Presidential Election

Burkina Faso is due to go to the polls on October 11 to elect a new president from a field dominated by former members of Compaore's regime.

In a report submitted to Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, himself a former commander in the presidential guard, the national reconciliation and reform commission described the 1,200-strong unit as "an army within an army."

The RSP's political meddling after Compaore's ousting, including attempts to force the prime minister's resignation over his plans to reduce its size, provoked further protests and prompted authorities to call for a review of the guard's role. Monday's report recommended that the regiment be broken up and its members redeployed within the framework of a broader reform of the military.

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