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Presidential Guard Announces Takeover Of Burkina Faso


The elite presidential guard in the West African nation of Burkina Faso has announced a coup. Several people were reported killed in clashes between the guard and crowds protesting against the takeover. The military coup comes barely a month before elections were to be held to restore democratic rule. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton filed this report.



OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The coup was announced on national radio and television a day after elite presidential guard soldiers stormed a cabinet meeting and took hostage Burkina Faso's interim president, Michel Kafando, and prime minister, Colonel Isaac Zida. Demonstrators were quick to protest in the capital, Ouagadougou, where marches were met with force and shots by presidential guards patrolling the streets. The coup comes nearly a year after ex-President Blaise Compaore was driven from power in a popular uprising over his efforts to extend his 27-year rule.


BAMBA: (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: Now soldiers apparently loyal to the ex-president have launched a counter coup. Burkina Faso's new leader is a trusted aide of Compaore's, General Gilbert Diendere. Another member of the presidential guard made the coup declaration, announcing that all transitional institutions were dissolved and the interim president stripped of his powers. Colonel Mamadou Bamba gave these reasons for the military seizing power.


BAMBA: On this day, the mid interim, (Speaking French).

QUIST-ARCTON: Bamba says Burkina Faso's new administration wants to end what he describes as the rule of a deviant regime before organizing peaceful and inclusive elections. New electoral laws barred officials linked to ex-President Compaore from being candidates in elections scheduled on October 11. The coup leaders say this was divisive, created deep frustration and made second-class citizens of some people. Cherif Sy, who heads the ousted transitional parliament, told Radio France International he's now in charge and that he sees former President Compaore's hand in events in Burkina Faso.

CHERIF SY: (Through interpreter) Yes, I am the interim head of state now. As soon as the transitional president is released, I will hand back power to him.

QUIST-ARCTON: To understand the context of this week's events, here are some facts about Burkina Faso, a former French colony. Charismatic, revolutionary soldier-president Captain Thomas Sankara seizes power in 1983 and changes the name of his country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which translates as the land of upright people. Four years later, Sankara is killed in a military coup led by brother-in-arms Blaise Compaore. After 27 years in office, Compaore is eventually ousted from power in 2014. Today's coup is being condemned by the U.N., the U.S. and regional organizations, as well as former colonial power, France. White House spokesman, Josh Earnest...


JOSH EARNEST: The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force. The United States calls for an immediate end to violence, urges the military personnel involved to return to their barracks.

QUIST-ARCTON: Burkina Faso's borders are closed, and a curfew is enforced ahead of another night of uncertainty. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Accra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
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