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Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso army chief testifies and denies leading coup attempt

Diendere speaks at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou following the coup attempt, 17 September 2015.
Diendere speaks at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou following the coup attempt, 17 September 2015. Photo: Ahmed Ouoba/AFP

A top Burkinabe general on Monday denied leading a 2015 coup attempt in the first testimony by the former right-hand man of deposed president Blaise Compaore.

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General Gilbert Diendere is charged with treason, murder and threatening state security over an attempted coup that left 14 people dead and 270 injured.

“I neither ordered, nor planned, nor organised, nor executed what certain people call a coup d’etat,” Diendere told the military tribunal in Ouagadougou.

The trial focuses on the coup attempt by Diendere’s elite unit aiming to depose the interim leadership that took over after Compaore was overthrown following a wave of popular protests.

Diendere appeared in court dressed in combat fatigues, wearing a red beret and gave a military salute to the tribunal.

The former army chief said the coup attempt was the work of soldiers from the disbanded Regiment of Presidential Security.

According to one of Diendere’s lawyers, Mathieu Somé, nobody can prove that the former general was the leader of the coup attempt.

“All the committees of wise men, the mediators called on him to play a role between the men and [Yacouba Isaac] Zida,” Somé told RFI’s Service Afrique. “So he was aware of everything that happened, he tries to explain the different frustrations that the men experienced, it’s simple.”

Lieutenant Colonel Zida became interim president following days of mass protests in late 2014. He later handed over power to Michel Kafando as interim head of state with Zida becoming prime minister.

During the coup attempt Zida and Kafando were both detained by members of the presidential guard in an apparent power-grab. It came just days after a government commission recommended disbanding the 1,200-strong force.

The coup lasted a week and Diendere was quoted at the time as saying it was “the biggest mistake” because it was not supported by the people. Kafando and Zida returned to their positions in government.

“The inevitable happened,” said Diendere, concluding his remarks in the courtroom about events following the overthrow of Compaore.

Diendere’s characterisation of events pleased lawyers acting for civil parties in the case. “He said to us that this was inevitable,” lawyer Prosper Farama told RFI.

“So he told us clearly that it was predictable that there would be a coup d’etat, that the transitional authorities would be stopped,” said Farama. “We are reassured by what we’ve always known, it was a premeditated act.”

Diendere is among 84 defendants in the trial including suspected ringleader Djibril Bassolé, a former foreign minister under Compaore.

Diendere has already been fingered by other co-defendants such as alleged operational chief of the coup Eloi Badiel who said he acted under “indirect” orders from Diendere.

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