TWO African leaders resumed mediation talks in the capital of Burkina Faso on Saturday, three days after a coup that reignited violence in the troubled Sahel state.
Tensions remained high in Ouagadougou, where most shops remained shuttered after a confrontation on Friday between elite troops and protestors.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi met in a hotel with opposition leaders and members of civil society groups.
They were also to meet with the country’s interim president, Michel Kafando, who was released on Thursday after being detained by the coup leaders.
Sall, speaking after meeting with coup leader General Gilbert Diendere, Compaore’s former chief of staff, called on Friday for unity.
“We must create a dynamic of national reconciliation… to allow the country to reposition itself on its path and on its march to democracy,” Sall said.
Burkina Faso has had a long history of instability since it gained independence in 1960.
It had been preparing to hold presidential and legislative elections on October 11 before Wednesday’s coup took place.
The vote is supposed to mark the end of the transitional government installed after Compaore—in power since 1987—was toppled by a popular uprising in October 2014.
The latest coup was orchestrated by an elite army unit loyal to Compaore, who claim Kafando was excluding Compaore’s supporters from taking part in the ballot.
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.
Coup leaders released Kafando and two ministers Friday, describing the move as “a sign of easing tensions”, but prime minister Isaac Zida remained under house arrest.
The military also lifted a curfew and reopened land and air borders that they had closed after seizing power.
Six people have been killed and at least 13 wounded in clashes, a doctor at Ougadougou’s main hospital told news agency AFP on Friday.
As the two African mediators arrived on Friday, members of the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) which spearheaded the coup fired in the air to disperse protestors trying to march on Revolution Square, the epicentre of last year’s revolt against Compaore.
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.
Other protests have taken place in several other cities and towns, including Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s economic capital and a hotspot for the Compaore uprising..