UPDATE: Burkina Faso cabinet dissolves powerful guards unit, as its leader admits coup had been a 'mistake'

Soldiers that were in charge of country for just under a week say they want to make sure they and their families are protected.

Burkina Faso’s interim cabinet on Friday dissolved the presidential guards unit which staged last week’s abortive coup, as it held its first meeting following the takeover.

“The third decree relates to the dissolution of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP). The adoption of this decree dissolves the RSP,” according to minutes from the meeting seen by AFP. 

Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida had earlier announced that the coup leaders would face justice. “Those who will have to answer to justice will do so,” he said as his team gathered at his city centre office rather than its customary presidential palace venue where the putschists burst in on them last week. 

Asked about the future of the RSP as he promised a commission of enquiry Zida told reporters: “Disarmament and dissolution—why not?” Asked when that might happen he responded: “Immediately.” 

Friday’s meeting went ahead amid tight security with the ministers joined by armed forces chief Pingrenoma Zagre, who had opposed the RSP renegades who staged the coup.

Under the terms of the deal ending the uprising, the RSP officers agreed to stand down from their positions in Ouagadougou and the army also agreed to pull out. But coup leaders were demanding guarantees for their safety before they disarm, a senior RSP member said.

“The men are categorically opposed” to disarming without the guarantees, the source said.

“They have met a delegation from army headquarters to discuss the problem of their and their families’ safety. They have no guarantees in this respect.”

Forced to stand down
On September 16, the elite presidential guard, the RSP, seized interim president Michel Kafando, Zida and two other government ministers, announcing a coup the following day.

But the new military regime, led by General Gilbert Diendere, stepped down under a mediation brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and under pressure from the regular army.

The interim cabinet met in the prime minister’s office Friday, amid a major security presence. They were later joined by armed forces chief Pingrenoma Zagre, who had opposed the putschists.

Under the terms of the deal, the RSP agreed to stand down from their positions in Ouagadougou and the army also agreed to pull out.

The coup and resulting unrest claimed the lives of at least 10 people while more than 100 were wounded.

The RSP appears to have miscalculated with the coup further alienating opinion against their role in the country. 

The presidential guard, a Praetorian Guard of sorts, occupies a special place in the country—numbering just 1,300, they are the best trained and armed of the country’s military forces, and due to their role in propping up Blaise Compaore’s 27-year rule, had amassed themselves a privileged position, and always being within earshot—and privy to the goings on at the former imperial presidency.

Diendere, a close friend and former chief of staff of the ousted president, said their putsch was meant to forestall election “chaos” and fraud. But Diendere acknowledged midweek the coup was a “mistake” which did not enjoy popular backing.

But just three days earlier a national reforms body had recommended the disbandment of the guard, seeing its overbearing nature and leadership vacuum since Compaore’s departure as a major obstacle to the fragile transitional period.

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