Civil Society Condemns the Military Coup and Calls for the Restoration of Transitional Authorities

Press release
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FIDH, MBDHP and #MyVoteMustCount coalition member organisations condemn the coup d’Etat led by the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), the arrest of President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Zida and two other members of the government, the repression of popular demonstrations, as well as the attacks against the independent media. Our organisations urge General Gilbert Diendéré, head of the National Council for Democracy (CND), the military junta that seized power, a member of the RSP and the self-proclaimed leader of a new transition force, to exercise maximum restraint toward peaceful demonstrators, to immediately release all individuals being detained, and to restore power to the transitional government without delay, thereby allowing for the resumption of the electoral process and democratic presidential elections.

“This is just one more military coup in Burkina Faso: CND took power by force, imposed a curfew, and occupies Ouagadougou’s strategic roads and squares, shooting with live ammunition at people who flocked to the streets spontaneously calling for respect of democracy. The putschists must immediately restore power to the legitimate transition authorities so that the long-awaited elections can be held as planned and the democratic process can take its course”, declared our organisations.

On Wednesday 16 September 2015, around 2:30 pm, RSP members entered the Kosyam presidential palace, interrupted the meeting of the Council of Ministers and took as hostages interim President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Zida, the Minister of Urbanism René Bagoro, and the Minister of Public Services Augustin Loada. According to several sources, RSP members started “tense negotiations” with the latter while the senior military authorities held a mediation session, looking for a way out of the crisis. At the same time, RSP members covered Ouagadougou’s main strategic roads and strengthened their position in front of the national radio-television headquarters. Heavy firing was heard in Burkina’s capital city, with shots being fired all night long to deter demonstrators in several parts of the city.

According to the information obtained by our organisations, RSP members violently repressed the popular demonstrations as of Wednesday evening, using excessive force to disperse hundreds of peaceful demonstrators who had come to place de la Nation and beating up dozens of them. The Radio France Internationale (RFI) transmitters were cut and the Radio Omega teams were intimidated by RSP members who ordered them to stop broadcasting. On Thursday, 17 September 2015, a young man apparently was shot and killed in the centre of Ouagadougou, and his body was taken to an unknown destination. Dozen of injured persons are being taken to the main hospitals. While shots could still be heard, RSP members went on national television this morning to announce the “resignation” of the interim president, the dissolution of the transitional government and of the National Transition Council, and the organisation of a consultative meeting to discuss the formation of a new government based on national cohesion, including the creation of a National Council for Democracy (CND). A few hours later, the national television station announced that General Gilbert Diendéré, who is close to former president Blaise Compaoré, would be the president of the CND, the military junta was now in power, that there would be a curfew from 7 pm to 6 am and that the national borders were closed.

Relations between interim authorities and RSP members had deteriorated over the last few months. Tensions were heightened over the last few days because of the publication, on Monday 14 September, of the final report of the Commission for National Reconciliation and Reforms recommending “the dissolution of the presidential regiment and the redeployment of its members to missions other than protecting the President of Burkina Faso, with an eye on the radical changes in the National Army and its command. The declaration read this morning by Mamadou Bamba, the CND spokesman, announcing the dissolution of the transitional government, denounced the “deviance” of the transition government, especially its electoral law that excludes anyone who, in October 2014, might have supported the bill to amend Article 37 of Burkina Faso’s Constitution The bill was intended in order to override the limitation on the number of presidential terms one can serve, thereby to allowing Blaise Compaoré, in power since 1987, to run for a fifth term. In actual fact, several people who were close to Blaise Compaoré were thus prevented from participating in the presidential elections scheduled to be held next October 11th.

The announcement of the coup in Burkina Faso quickly led to protests by civil society and several political parties, and members of the transitional government. The calls to demonstrate for the preservation of democracy and against the coup, including the call from the Coalition Contre la Vie Chère (CCVC – coalition against the high cost of living), are still going on, and the population is actively responding despite repression by the army.

“The situation is extremely volatile and we are afraid that it might degenerate at any time, causing grave human rights violations. The people of Burkina Faso seem determined to defend democracy; the civil society and political parties are mobilised while the army is organising its troops and continues to repress the demonstrators. We call on all parties to remain calm to avoid more bloodshed. The members of the CND involved in the coup should look at what happened to the military junta recently in Mali and in Guinea and learn their lesson: surrender power or ultimately go to jail”, declared our organisations.

Lastly, our organisations call on the international community, which expressed its indignation and condemned the coup, to take all the necessary measures to enable a quick and peaceful solution to the current political and security crisis, and the resumption of the electoral process. More specifically, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the United Nations (ONU), the European Union (EU) and the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) must make all possible efforts to obtain the immediate release of the interim president and the ministers who are still being detained, and guarantee the safety of the civilian population. If necessary, they should activate the suspension and sanction mechanisms provided for in their respective texts.

“My Vote Must Count”
Between 2014 and 2016, 52 elections including 25 presidential elections have been scheduled in 27 African countries. To avoid manipulation, fraud, and violence resulting from shortened elections, African and international civil society have decided to mobilise through the “My Vote Must Count” campaign in which public awareness, field actions and political advocacy prior to each election between now and 2016 are used to oblige the governments to respect their citizens’ legitimate right to freely choose their representatives in fair, free and transparent elections.
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