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Africa

Deal to end Burkina coup crisis denounced

media Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration outside the Hotel Liaco in Ougadougou on 20 September, 2015. AFP/Sia Kambou

Burkina Faso is bracing for more violence after civil society movements denounced a political accord reached on Sunday.

Under the deal, mediated by Ecowas, the West African bloc, supporters of former President Blaise Compaoré, deposed after a mass uprising in October, will be able to stand in the upcoming presidential election.

Burkina’s interim National Assembly had voted to ban former ruling CDP officials from contesting the poll, initially set for 11 October and now scheduled to be held by 22 November.

“What Ecowas is suggesting is shameful,” civil society spokesman Guy-Hervé Kam told AFP. “I’m ashamed of being African."

Under the agreement, mediated by Macky Sall and Boni Yoyi, the presidents of Senegal and Benin, deposed Interim President Michel Kafando is to be reinstated.

He was briefly placed under house arrest on Thursday when General Gilbert Diendéré, Burkina’s new strongman, headed the widely condemned coup.

The political accord calls for an amnesty for coup leaders by the end of September – a controversial issue likely to generate anger among opposition and civil society
activists.

Before details of the political accord were released, some were warning that an amnesty for the presidential guard, better known as the RSP, the army unit behind last week’s coup, would generate anger.

“We’re hearing about impunity, about finding a way out for General Diendéré,” said an irate protester on Sunday. “This is alarming and unacceptable. Impunity has been the root cause of many crises in Burkina. This is not how we are going to breed democracy in this country.”

The already tense situation in Ouagadougou took a turn for the worse on Sunday when anti-coup marchers tried to gather on highly symbolic Independence Square -- rechristened Revolution Square after President Compaoré was overthrown in October.

Barred from entering the square by RSP forces, more than 50 people marched to the Laico hotel where the Ecowas-mediated talks were taking place. They initially congregated across the street from the high-rise hotel. But security forces wearing black balaclavas dispersed them, leading protesters to regroup on hotel premises.

Chanting anti-RSP slogans, singing the national anthem, many vowed to continue putting pressure on the new authorities in a bid to have deposed President Kafando reinstated.

“We are facing terrorism here in Burkina,” one anti-coup protester said, echoing a complaint often heard these days in Ouagadougou. “Every Burkinabe has to stand up against this terrorism.”

Protesters were subsequently targeted by civilian supporters of the country’s new military strongman. Scuffles broke out between the two camps and gun-wielding security forces intervened, firing warning shots.

As foreign photographers took a few punches protesters took shelter inside the hotel lobby, some bemoaning their powerlessness in the face of the security forces.

“We are ready to fight until our former president, Kafando, comes back to power, and we are ready to die for him,” said one youth. “Already more than ten people have been killed. Me too I am ready to die to build democracy.”

At least ten people have died since last week’s putsch, according to medical sources at Yalgado Ouedraogo Hospital, Ouagadoudou’s main medical facility. Many more, including adolescents, have been been wounded and injured.

Public-sector medical services have however virtually ground to a halt because nursing and medical staff have followed union calls to down tools to protest the coup.

But some medical NGOs have stepped in to help nurses and doctors in emergency wards, picking up patients’ medical bills.

Distressed-looking relatives were milling about the corridors of Yalgado Ouedraogo Hospital on Sunday, discussing the plight of loved ones in a low voice.

“He was shot at point-blank range,” lamented the cousin of one man whose upper arm was hit by a bullet during a street protest. “He told me that the soldier looked him in the eye for a good ten seconds before he pulled the trigger.”

“This was not a stray bullet,” he added, displaying phone pictures of a man in a blood-stained shirt.

“He didn’t even cry,” the relative confided. “I did, but he didn’t.”

Under a dawn-to-dusk curfew, much of Ouagadougou looks like a ghost-town – even in the daytime. Most businesses, including petrol stations, have been closed since the coup. Vendors who sell petrol and diesel in liquor bottles have appeared on some street corners. Prices are soaring.

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