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Burkina Faso Coup Leader: President, PM Safe

By VOA News September 18, 2015

The head of Burkina Faso's new ruling council says the president and prime minister are safe in military custody and will soon be released.

Brigadier General Gilbert Diendere spoke to VOA's French to Africa Service Thursday, a day after soldiers overthrew the West African country's transitional government and arrested its leaders.

The general said the military staged the coup because the country's political process was biased. He said he will start a political dialogue to include all parties.

Burkina Faso was scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections on October 11. That date is now in limbo.

The White House said Thursday that it 'condemns in strongest terms the unconstitutional seizure of power' by the coup leaders. It called for the president and prime minister to be released immediately, for the coup leaders to stand down, for them to respect the rights of citizens to assemble peacefully, and for Burkina Faso to be put back on the road to October's presidential elections.

The Obama administration said in its statement Thursday that it is 'deeply disappointed' in the 'self-interested actions of a few' threatening the opportunity for the people of Burkina Faso to hold elections and build a new future for their country. It said the United States stands with the people of Burkina Faso in rejecting 'democratic backsliding.'

At least three people were reported killed Thursday as young protesters attempted to gather near the presidential palace in Ouagadougou, and the U.S. embassy says roadblocks have been put up across the city.

The deputy head of the African Union, Erastus Mwencha, demanded Thursday that the military leaders immediately hand back power to the transitional government.

'Any government that is unconstitutional is automatically condemned because we believe in the rule of law that any change of power must follow the constitutional process,' Mwencha said.

He also appealed to people not to cooperate with the military takeover.

An interim government took power in Burkina Faso when a popular uprising toppled President Blaise Compoare last October after 27 years in power. He had planned to change the constitution so he could extend his rule.

Coup leader General Diendere is a longtime Compoare ally and complained that the transitional government barred supporters of the toppled president from seeking office. It also insisted that Compoare's powerful presidential guard be disbanded.

The U.N. Security Council has demanded the president and prime minister be freed and condemned the detentions in the 'strongest terms.' Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was outraged and called it a 'flagrant violation' of Burkina Faso's constitution.

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