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Burkina Faso's Ousted Interim President Is Back in Office After Attempted Coup

Despite President Michel Kafando's return to office, it was coup leader General Diendéré who welcomed a delegation of West African leaders, who traveled to the capital to make sure the interim president was officially reinstated.

by Pierre Longeray
Sep 23 2015, 8:50pm

via Jeff Attaway/Flickr

Burkina Faso's interim President Michel Kafando was reinstated Wednesday, one week after he was ousted in a coup led by members of the elite presidential guard. Kafando was sworn in this afternoon at a ceremony in the country's capital, Ougadougou, in the presence of several heads of state from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 

"I resume service," Kafando told reporters Wednesday. "The transition is back and is resuming the exercise of power."

Michael Kafando addresses the press on Wednesday morning. (via Burkina 24)

The announcement came one day after coup leaders signed a peace deal with troops loyal to the transitional government. Leaders of the junta and regional heads had been trying to reach an agreement since Monday, when the army marched on Ouagadougou to reverse the coup.

But despite Kafando's return to office, it was coup leader General Gilbert Diendéré who welcomed the delegation of leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who traveled to the capital to make sure the interim president was officially reinstated. 

"I will welcome [the ECOWAS heads of state] and Kafando will accompany them after," Diendéré said Tuesday, describing the symbolic transfer of power following his brief stint at the head of the country.

Kafando was taken hostage by members of the presidential guard during the September 17 coup and then placed under house arrest. The 1,300 person strong elite presidential guard unit has often been compared to a militia acting on behalf of former President Blaise Compaoré. Compaoré was ousted in October 2014 and forced into exile after threatening to amend the constitution in order to further extend his 27-year rule.

The leaders of last week's coup have claimed that one of their aims was to ensure that Compaoré's supporters could participate in the country's next elections. Burkina Faso's constitutional council had previously excluded more than 40 people linked to the former president from the polls.

Related: Opposition Parties in Burkina Faso Call for Nationwide Protests

Kafando's return to office was announced Tuesday night by Diendéré himself, who said that the interim president would be "put back in the saddle" on Wednesday. Shortly after the announcement came the news that coup leaders and government loyalists had negotiated a five point peace plan under the authority of the Mogho Naaba, the King of Burkina Faso's leading Mossi tribe.

As part of the agreement, presidential guard troops have agreed to return to their barracks and to return control of key positions in Ougadougou to the interim government. The regular army — which converged on Ouagadougou Monday — has agreed to retreat to 50 kilometers (30 miles) outside the city. The army has also promised to "guarantee the safety of all presidential guard personnel and their families" in order to prevent any reprisals. Finally, both camps have agreed on a "72-hour deadline to review equipment" — meaning, to ensure the presidential guard has laid down its weapons.

The leaders of ECOWAS are still debating whether to guarantee amnesty to the leaders of the junta — an idea that pro-democracy activists have branded "shameful." ECOWAS leaders gathering in Ougadougou Wednesday were met by a crowd of 1,000 protesters, some of them holding signs reading, "No amnesty for assassins." Eleven people have died and a further 119 have been injured in coup-related violence, according to a hospital source.

Related: Burkina Faso General Is Really Sorry About That Whole Coup Thing

The council must also decide whether to allow Compaoré supporters to participate in the upcoming elections, which were originally scheduled for October 11 but have now been pushed back to November 22. An earlier version of the deal, in which ECOWAS allowed Compaoré's allies to be candidates in the election, was flatly rejected by civil society organizations.

Also up for debate is the fate of the presidential guard, which many want to see dissolved — including the country's prime minister and former presidential guard member Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Zida.

Speaking to VICE News Monday, coup leader General Diendéré said that, "Everyone is doing everything they can to avoid pointless bloodshed."

Related: VICE News Interviews Leader of Burkina Faso Coup

Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray

Watch VICE News' documentary Revolution in Burkina Faso: The Fall of Compaoré: 

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