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African mediators seek return of Burkina`s interim leader after coup



Two African presidents mediating talks aimed at restoring Burkina Faso to its "march to democracy", after this week`s coup, called Saturday for the return of interim president Michel Kafando, officials said.

Tensions remained high in Ouagadougou, where most shops were shuttered after a confrontation on Friday between elite troops and protesters.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Benin`s President Thomas Boni Yayi held crisis talks with coup leader General Gilbert Diendere, former chief of staff to ex-president Blaise Compaore who was toppled by a popular uprising last October.

Sall`s office said the negotiators were working on a scenario "which could very well lead to a return" of the country`s interim leader Kafando, who is under house arrest after being detained at the presidential palace by troops loyal to Compaore on Wednesday.

A foreign diplomatic source in Ouagadougou confirmed this was the solution negotiators were looking for.

"What is envisaged -- and what will be done -- is maintaining Kafando as head of state and for the government to complete the transition," the source said. "Diendere should leave."

Sall and Boni Yayi met with Kafando at his home earlier Saturday after two hours of talks with opposition leaders and civil society groups.

"We held in-depth discussions with President Kafando on the urgent situation and how to put in place a return to normality," Sall said after the meeting.

"All parties have been heard and we have a scheme that is taking place, and we hope that by the end of the afternoon we can be more explicit," he said, adding an emergency ECOWAS summit may be called.At least 10 people have been killed and 113 wounded in clashes sparked by Wednesday`s detention of the country`s interim leaders, a source at Ouagadougou`s main hospital told AFP.

Across the country, residents -- many of them young -- have set up roadblocks in protest at the coup, burning tyres and paralysing traffic.

Thick black smoke rose over the main western road to Ouagadoudou on Saturday, while some 30 youths set fire to tyres running across the main artery to the country`s second city Bobo Dioulasso. Shops were shuttered, and traffic was close to zero.

"Haven`t you heard the radio? Don`t you know what`s happening?" a young man screamed as mini-buses were turned back by men wielding sticks and stones.

Andre, a student, added: "We got rid of Blaise. It`s not on for him to come back or for us to see his aide come back a year later."

On Friday, members of the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), which spearheaded the coup, fired in the air to disperse protesters trying to march on Revolution Square, the epicentre of last year`s revolt against Compaore.

The RSP, an elite army unit of 1,300 men loyal to Compaore, officially declared the coup on Thursday and installed Diendere as the new leader.

The military junta has claimed that Kafando was excluding Compaore`s supporters from taking part in elections set for October 11. 

The vote is supposed to mark the end of the transitional government installed after Compaore`s ouster.

After his first meeting with Diendere on Friday, Sall said: "We must create a dynamic of national reconciliation... to allow the country to reposition itself on its path and on its march to democracy."In the capital, amid growing calls for civil disobedience, the homes of two former Compaore allies -- former Ouagadougou mayor Simon Compaore, and Salif Diallo, who had joined opposition ranks in 2014 -- were ransacked overnight Friday, an AFP reporter saw.

But the military lifted a curfew and reopened land and air borders that they had closed after seizing power.

A former French colony previously named Upper Volta, Burkina Faso has had a long history of instability since it gained independence in 1960.

Overnight Friday, Diendere reiterated he had been acting in the country`s interests.

"We simply want to have proposals for elections that take place serenely and peacefully, and for results that are uncontested and uncontestable," he told the French television channel TV5 Monde.

The 54-member African Union has suspended Burkina Faso and imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on the junta.

"All measures taken by those who took power by force in Burkina Faso are null and void," Uganda`s AU ambassador Mull Katende said Friday.

From Zee News

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