UPDATE: AU suspends Burkina Faso over military coup, threatens sanctions if 'kidnapped' leaders not freed

The releases came after members of the junta met African, European, United Nations and US diplomats in the capital, Ouagadougou.

The African Union announced Friday it was suspending Burkina Faso over Thursday’s military coup, which has halted preparations for the west African nation’s first democratic election.

Following a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa, the 54-member pan-African bloc said the country was suspended “with immediate effect” and that sanctions would be imposed “if kidnapped Transition Authorities are not released immediately” by the junta. 

“The Council decided in accordance with the instrument we have in place to suspend Burkina Faso from all activities of the Union with immediate effect,” Uganda’s ambassador to the AU, Mull Katende, told reporters. 

Burkina Faso was preparing to hold its first democratic election in decades before the coup, led by allies of the former president, threw the nascent democracy into turmoil. 

The presidential and legislative elections were supposed to mark the end of the transitional government, installed after president Blaise Compaore was toppled in a popular uprising in October 2014 after 27 years in power. 

The uprising was triggered by his attempt to extend rule over the country. 

An elite army unit—Compaore’s powerful Presidential Security Regiment (RSP)—seized power after complaining the transitional government was excluding the ex-president’s supporters in the upcoming October 11 polls. 

They also kidnapped the country’s interim president Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Zida and two ministers, declared a curfew and shut the borders. 

On Friday the coup leaders announced they had released Kafando, but said Zida remains under house arrest. 

Widely condemned
The coup has already been condemned by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the AU and United Nations, who said in a joint statement on Thursday that they rejected “the disruption of the democratic process”. 

The European Union, the United States and former colonial power France have also denounced the junta.

Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal and Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin began mediation efforts Friday on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States.

“There was such an immediate and overwhelming response from international partners that we will probably see some concessions,” Cailin Birch, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, said Friday by phone. 

“But it’s incredibly unlikely the elections will be held in the near term.”

Shops and businesses remained closed Friday as sporadic gunfire rang out and troops patrolled the streets of Ouagadougou. Three people died of gunshot wounds and at least 60 were injured on Thursday, Robert Sangare, managing director of Yalgado Ouedraogo, the largest medical facility in the capital, said by phone. 

Protesters disregarded a nighttime curfew in the country’s second-biggest city, Bobo Dioulasso.


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