September 20, 2015 / 10:55 AM / 2 years ago

Mediators announce deal to end Burkina coup crisis, questions remain

An anti-coup protester carries a white flag down a street in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 20, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Penney

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Regional mediators seeking to peacefully roll back a military coup in Burkina Faso said they negotiated a draft deal on Sunday to end the crisis though they failed to secure the immediate restoration of civilian rule.

The announcement by Senegal’s President Macky Sall at a news conference came after a day fraught with tensions that began with an attack by pro-coup demonstrators and elite presidential guard soldiers on the hotel hosting the talks.

It remained to be seen whether the unsigned agreement would be accepted by either the coup leaders, who took the interim president, prime minister and several ministers hostage on Wednesday, or their opponents in a transitional government.

A night-time curfew remained in place on Sunday.

The coup came weeks before an Oct. 11 vote meant to mark a return to democracy after demonstrators toppled President Blaise Compaore last year as he attempted to extend his 27-year rule.

The uprising became a beacon for democratic aspirations in Africa at a time when veteran rulers from Rwanda to Congo Republic are seeking to scrap term limits.

Under the proposal announced by Sall, who is the current chairman of the West African block ECOWAS, the date of the polls could be pushed back to as late as Nov. 22.

In exchange for returning power to the civilian transitional authority, former Compaore right-hand man General Gilbert Diendere and his presidential guard would receive an amnesty for acts committed during the putsch.

President Michel Kafando would be restored as head of the transitional government, though the body’s military members would be excluded, a move likely aimed at eliminating Prime Minister Isaac Zida, seen as Diendere’s chief opponent.

The deal also calls for the reinstatement of candidates with close links to Compaore, who were excluded from running in the polls under a law passed by the transitional authorities.

Their exclusion from the election along with concerns that the transitional government was preparing to disband the presidential guard were among justifications given by Diendere for staging the coup.

A DONE DEAL?

Sall, who spent two days in the capital Ouagadougou on the mediation mission, said he planned to submit the proposal to a summit of heads of state in Nigeria on Tuesday.

Before he announced the plan, Francois Hollande, president of Burkina Faso’s former colonial master France, issued a warning against rejecting the mediation.

“There are discussions taking place as we speak and France backs the African mediations. I address a strong warning to those who would be tempted to oppose them”, he said during a state visit to Morocco.

However, there were immediate indications that the ECOWAS proposal might struggle to gain support among the rival Burkinabe groups.

In his own proposal submitted to mediators late on Saturday and seen by Reuters, Diendere put his own name forward to head a new post-coup transition.

Many opposition and civil society members present as the various points of the ECOWAS-mediated deal were announced appeared visibly shocked by the document’s content.

“It’s a draft. That’s all it is,” said opposition politician Benewende Sankara.

Roch Marc Christian Kabore, another leading opposition figure, said he had not been shown the content of the deal before it was announced. Guy-Herve Kam, spokesman for the civil society group Balai Citoyen (Citizen’s Broom) which helped lead the uprising against Compaore, was seen in tears.

Balai Citoyen members were among those attacked by masked presidential guard soldiers who burst into the Leico Hotel earlier in the day, brandishing assault rifles, pistols and shotguns.

Meanwhile, anti-coup protests continued for a fourth day on Sunday as demonstrators erected barricades in neighborhoods across Ouagadougou, braving the presidential guard’s attempts to break up gatherings of protesters.

“Our country calls us, comrades! We must paralyze Ouagadougou by any means,” Smockey Bambara, one of Balai Citoyen’s leaders, wrote in a Facebook post.

A Reuters witness saw presidential guard soldiers set fire to a pile of motor scooters on the street as part of efforts to limit the mobility of demonstrators.

Businesses remained closed and sporadic gunfire could be heard throughout the capital.

The junta has so far failed to gain nationwide traction for its coup, and outside the capital on Sunday, including in the second largest city Bobo-Dioulasso, people opposed to the putsch demonstrated without the interference of security forces.

Additional reporting by Nadoun Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Ros Russell and Jonathan Oatis

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