ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) – A coup d’état in Burkina Faso brought the lead-up to democratic elections to a halt for a week filled with fear and shooting in the streets. Mennonite Mission Network personnel in the country and leaders of Eglise Evangélique Mennonite du Burkina Faso (Evangelical Mennonite Church of Burkina Faso) are “cautiously hopeful” that the worst of the violence has been resolved.
For security reasons, North American workers and partners in Burkina have asked to remain anonymous until a democratically elected president has assumed control and freedom of speech is restored in the country.
The coup that deposed Burkina Faso’s interim president, Michel Kafando, began Sept. 16, when 1,300 members of the Presidential Security Regiment took hostage Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Zida, and two ministers. The Regiment is an elite group loyal to Blaise Compaoré, the former president who governed Burkina for 27 years. Yesterday, Sept. 23, Kafando returned to power through protests of people on the streets and the negotiations of the national army leaders and the Economic Community of West African States.
Last October, Compaoré was driven from power in a largely peaceful popular revolt, and Kafando was charged with the task of establishing a transitional government to prepare for next month’s elections, scheduled for Oct. 11.
Immediately following last week’s coup, crowds gathered outside the presidential palace to protest, but they were dispersed by the Security Regiment firing into the air. The Regiment also seized control of the national radio and television stations, announcing that Kafando’s government had been dissolved.
Mission Network personnel and partners in Ouagadougou, Burkina’s capital city, report that they, like most of the population, have stayed at home during the past week, and daily activities came to a standstill. Banks, businesses and gas stations closed. Political and civil leaders went into hiding. Some of their houses were looted and burned. Official reports say 10 died in the unrest, but figures may be much higher, one worker said.
Burkina Faso’s army entered Ouagadougou from garrisons all over the country and pressured the Security Regiment to give up power. The national army guaranteed the safety of Regiment members and their families, and promised to integrate the Regiment into the army. This proposal was given the blessing of the Mogho Naba, the Mossi traditional king. The Mossi are the predominant ethnic group in Burkina Faso.
Mission Network partners reported that yesterday morning, people were venturing into the streets.
“It will probably be several days before things truly get back to normal,” a mission worker said. “There will still be need for vigilance, for any possible last remaining elements of resistance. We need to work toward doing good to our enemies, and encourage each one to work for the good of the country. There will be many wounds that will need healing.”
Church leaders and workers in Burkina thank their brothers and sisters around the world for their prayers. They rejoice that the coup was reversed without armed combat.