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4 things you need to know about the (now failed) coup in Burkina Faso

The country’s interim government was restored earlier this week after a week-long coup.

BURKINA FASO’S INTERIM president, Michel Kafando, returned to power on Wednesday after a week-long coup that saw leading ministers detained and at least 10 people killed during violent demonstrations on the streets.

International condemnation of the uprising was immediate, with the United Nations, African Union and France, the country’s former colonial ruler, all ordering its leaders to lay down arms.

Following emergency talks in Nigeria, troops agreed to stand down from their positions, and the transitional government was restored, just seven days after the coup began.

Here’s how it all came about.

Burkina Faso Coup Michel Kafando attends the official handover ceremony returning him to office in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Source: TR/AP/Press Association Images

1. Who led the coup?

The Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP), an elite unit of around 1,300 soldiers in charge of the president’s security.

The force was created by former president Blaise Compaore, who was removed from power last year after trying to extend his 27-year rule.

The RSP declared power after storming and kidnapping ministers at a meeting of the interim government, which has been charged with running the country until presidential and parliamentary elections are held.

Burkina Faso Politics Blaise Compaore was swept from power in October 2014 after a popular uprising. Source: Francois Mori/AP/Press Association Images

2. Why did they seize power? 

The country’s parliament passed a law earlier this year that banned politicians who had supported a constitutional amendment to scrap term limits from standing for office.

The legislation effectively barred Compaore’s political allies from taking part in an upcoming parliamentary election on 11 October, the first vote since he was toppled.

The RSP retains close ties to the former president and his party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), many of whose candidates were disqualified by the law.

The general installed as president during the coup, Gilbert Diendere, was Compaore’s former chief of staff, and his wife, an MP for the CDP, was among those banned from contesting the election.

The RSP was also concerned about its future, having already called for the interim prime minister to resign over plans to reduce its size and pay.

Earlier this month, in a decisive blow, a commission recommended that the unit be disbanded, a call also made by two of the main presidential candidates in the next election.

Burkina Faso Coup Anti-coup demonstrators took to the streets of Burkina Faso's capital, burning tires as tensions mounted over military rule. Source: Theo Renaut/AP/Press Association Images

3. Where do the coup leaders stand now?

Diendere surprised many when he admitted after emergency talks that the coup “was the biggest mistake”.

“We knew the people were not in favour of it. That is why we have given up,” he said.

Diendere told reporters that he took “full responsibility” for the coup and was “not afraid to face justice”.

Burkina Faso Coup Gilbert Diendere hinted at a breakthrough in the political crisis last weekend. Source: Theo Renaut/AP/Press Association Images

4. What happens next?

Burkina Faso’s interim cabinet dissolved the RSP at a meeting on Friday, its first meeting since the takeover.

Yacouba Isaac Zida, the interim prime minister, had earlier announced that the coup leaders would not evade prosecution, and on Friday a commission was created to identify those responsible for the uprising.

The upcoming election has been delayed for several weeks, but it remains to be seen whether key RSP demands, including the lifting of an electoral ban on Compaore’s allies, will be fulfilled.

Additional reporting by AFP

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About the author:

Catherine Healy

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