Soldiers detain Burkina Faso interim leaders

Detention of president, prime minister and cabinet members raises fears of coup before elections.

Burkina Faso celebrates its 54th anniversary of independence
Interim president Kafando and prime minister Zida were tasked with organising the presidential elections [Anadolu/Getty Images]

Soldiers have detained Burkina Faso’s transitional president, prime minister and an unknown number of cabinet members, raising fears of a coup.

Members of the military showed up at the presidential offices on Wednesday afternoon and barred the transitional leaders from leaving, Achille Tapsoba, who works at the presidency, told the Associated Press news agency.

The soldiers fired shots at protesters who had gathered outside the offices on Wednesday night.

The raid comes weeks before the country is due to hold elections to replace its longtime leader who was ousted in a popular uprising late last year.

Interim president Michel Kafando and Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida, the interim prime minister, were tasked with organising the presidential elections on October 11, which many hoped would strengthen the country’s democracy.

It is not known how many cabinet members are being held.

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Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Kinshasa, said members of the international community were already calling on the soldiers to release the cabinet members.

“They’re saying, whatever your issue is, release these people and then we can talk about it,” our correspondent said. 

“It’s not yet clear whether these guards want to take control or power, it could be more to do with the fact [the presidential guard unit] could be dismantled.”


Our correspondent said the guards could fear disbanding the unit might open the way for criminal proceedings against members for abuses committed during anti-government protests last year.

“They’re trying to stabilise their position and protect their position.”

Tensions over vote

There have been tensions over the vote because members of the ex-president’s party have been declared ineligible. Anyone who supported the ex-president’s bid to amend the constitution so he could seek another term is also banned from running.

Another source of tension has been an ongoing dispute between the transitional officials and the country’s elite Presidential Security Regiment. The 1,300-strong group has called for the resignation of the interim prime minister, who is a former second-in-command of the unit. He had threatened to disband the group back in December but later reversed course.

Burkina Faso’s military initially had picked Zida to lead the country when it swooped in and took control in the power vacuum after President Blaise Compaore’s resignation.

The international community urged the military to swiftly hand back power or face crippling economic sanctions.

Kafando, a former ambassador to the UN, was then chosen as transitional president, and he chose Zida to serve as prime minister.

Source: Al Jazeera, AP