Burkina Faso coup leaders 'free President Kafando'

Burkina Faso interim President Michel Kafando Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Michel Kafando had been due to hand over power after elections due in October

Burkina Faso's interim President Michel Kafando has been freed and is in good health, the new junta leaders say.

However, Prime Minister Isaac Zida, who was also detained when the presidential guard stormed a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, remains under house arrest.

The African Union has suspended Burkina Faso and threatened sanctions unless the junta releases all interim political figures from detention.

The US and France have also condemned the coup in the former French colony.

The coup leaders have agreed to the "principle of dialogue", as two West African leaders arrived in the country to mediate in the crisis.

At least three people have died in protests in the capital, Ouagadougou, after an ally of ex-President Blaise Compaore was named leader on Thursday.

The influential Balai Citoyen civil society group has put the number of people who have died in demonstrations against the presidential guard (RSP) , at 10.

An unknown number of protesters have also been detained.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some protesters were out on the streets again on Friday burning tyres and erecting blockades

The BBC's Laeila Adjovi in Ouagadougou says demonstrators gathered around the airport for the arrival of a delegation from the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

The delegation was led by Senegal's President Macky Sall, the current Ecowas chair, and Benin's leader Thomas Boni Yayi.

Ahead of their arrival, the air and land borders were officially re-opened.

Security forces again fired in the air on Friday to disperse to demonstrators who burned tyres and blocked streets in the city, our reporter says.

Elections were due to be held in the West African nation on 11 October, nearly a year after a popular uprising forced Mr Compaore, the long-time ruler of the West African country, from power.

'Easing tensions'

Coup leader Gen Gilbert Diendere, who was Mr Compaore's former chief-of-staff, told reporters that Mr Kafando was now in his official residence.

He was reportedly freed on Thursday but has not yet been seen in public.

Two other minister have also been released, the coup leaders say.

The decision to free them was made "as a sign of easing tensions and in the general interest", a statement read on national television said.

Prime Minister Zida was the army officer who took charge after Mr Compaore was ousted.

The lieutenant colonel was number two in the RSP, where he may still hold influence, which explains his continued detention, says BBC Afrique's Lamine Konkobo.

Analysis: Thomas Fessy, BBC West Africa correspondent

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Blaise Compaore was accused of committing widespread abuses

The elite presidential guard has been trained, in part, by the US. It is the most powerful armed group in Burkina Faso and often disrupted the activities of the transitional government as it tried to cling to the privileges it enjoyed under Mr Compaore's rule.

It is seen to be close to him, and is not popular on the streets. So its seizure of power could be a recipe for serious violence.

The transitional government might have made two mistakes - preventing politicians loyal to Mr Compaore from running in next month's elections and allowing the Reconciliation Commission, formed to heal wounds after the end of his authoritarian rule, to release a report calling for the presidential guard to be disbanded.

Some argue that a newly elected president would have had greater legitimacy to take such action.

Mr Compaore is currently in exile and was accused of committing widespread abuses, and trying to change the constitution to extend his term in office.

Some of his key allies had been barred from contesting the election.

Gen Diendere has said he has had no contact with Mr Compaore and will do everything to "avoid violence that could plunge the country into chaos".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionHow the coup was announced on state TV

An earlier announcement on state television said wide-ranging talks would be held to form a new interim government that would organise "peaceful and inclusive elections".

Transitional parliamentary speaker Cheriff Sy called for people to "immediately rise up" against the coup, and declared himself the leader.

The coup was announced on the day that a judge was due to give the results of DNA tests on the remains of former President Thomas Sankara, his widow Mariam Sankara told the BBC.

Her husband was killed in a 1987 coup that saw Mr Compaore and fellow officers such as his close friend Gen Diendere take power.

The family want to know the exact circumstances of his death, which have always been shrouded in mystery.

Seven things about Burkina Faso:

Image copyright AFP
  • It is one of the world's poorest countries - its main export is cotton
  • A former French colony, it gained independence as Upper Volta in 1960
  • Capt Thomas Sankara seized power in 1983 and adopted radical left-wing policies - he is often referred to as "Africa's Che Guevara"
  • The anti-imperialist revolutionary renamed the country Burkina Faso, which translates as "land of honest men"
  • Mr Compaore took power in the coup that killed Mr Sankara, and ruled for 27 years, until he was ousted last year following street protests
  • People in Burkina Faso, known as Burkinabes, love riding motor scooters
  • It is renowned for its pan-African film festival, Fespaco, held every two years in Ouagadougou

The 'heroes' of Burkina Faso's revolution

The rise and fall of Blaise Compaore

Guide to Burkina Faso

Related Topics

More on this story

Around the BBC