OK, I got out of the house a bit today. With yesterdays’ good news, tensions were low and I had a ton of digital work to get caught up on, so I went in to school. Just got sent home, so we’ll see if that window opens again soon.
When I last left you, here was the situation.
On one side of the table we had the following players.
- Blaise Compaoré: ousted and exiled tyrannical ex-president for 27 years, who ‘won’ four elections to stay in power.
- The CDP, Campoaré’s political party, who have been banned from participating in the upcoming elections.
- The RSP, Campoaré’s hated personal army, who are well armed and accustomed to the benefits of their elite status, and whose members are also banned from participating in the upcoming elections. It was just announced two days earlier that they were to be dissolved as an organization, which was probably the catalyst for the coup.
- Gilbert Dienderé, head of the RSP and Campoaré’s ex-Chief of Staff, who led the coup and declared himself the new leader of the Interim Government of Burkina Faso, under leadership of a new political party, the CND. His reason: he wants ‘all parties to have the right to be involved in the elections’…which means the CDP, the RSP, and (maybe) even Campoaré? He also opposed the dissolution of the RSP, of course.
On the other side of the table, we had:
- Michael Kifendo, civilian and appointed head of the transition government tasked with running the new elections to fill the power vacuum left by Campoaré’s departure last year
- Isaac Zida, ex-leader of the RSP, who is now Kifendo’s VP, and hated by the RSP and CDP leadership.
- Several ambassadors and Heads of State from neighboring countries, who flew in to serve as negotiators.
- The people of Burkina Faso, who have wanted a non-military, freely elected government for 60 years and for the first time can almost see it in their grasp. They want: no CDP/CND, no RSP, no military in government, no Campoaré, and Dienderé’s head on a block for bringing a coup.
There is also a Yoda-like figure, the Mogho Naba, who is the Emperor of the Mossi people. They are the largest cultural component of the nation (60%), and although he has no legal authority, people listen to him. The uprisings last year basically stopped because some military leaders asked him to intervene, and he told everyone to stop fighting. He often steps in when there are massive crises in government, and folks are wondering which way he will rule.
So at the end of the day yesterday, the negotiating team gleefully announced that a breakthrough had happened. Dienderé had agreed to hand back power to Kifendo in exchange for a few concessions. In addition to amnesty for the coup, he wanted CDP members to be able to run, and for the status of the RSP to be determined by the new leader. Also, Zida has to be removed from the government as he is military.
Everyone was quite happy about the reinstatement of Kifendo at first, but soon there was an upswell of popular anger about the terms. If the CDP can run, then who is to say that they won’t steal the election, and the hated RSP gets preserved? And suddenly Burkina doesn’t have the ‘civilian government’ that they have craved since their very first leader. Also, Kifendo said he was never consulted on the terms and would never have agreed to let the RSP continue until after the elections.
So today, one of the negotiating ambassadors told Dienderé that the public would not accept his terms. Kifendo is still President, Diendre is a traitor and he needs to dissolve the RSP now. If he refuses to, then any fallout from their presence is on his head.
Then to make THEIR position known, about 20 members of the RSP destroyed the state-owned communications equipment and took the entire country’s ADSL service offline. This overwhelmed the 3G networks, so digital communication has been spotty at best, nonexistent for the most part. Only dedicated satellite networks have been mostly immune, but rumors are that the RSP has the ability to jam them.
To up the ante, the regular Army finally weighed in. They announced that they were in support of the people of Burkina Faso, and they were going to march into Ouagadougou and disarm and arrest any members of the RSP who refused to surrender.
So when that announcement came out, the school sent everyone home. People have started filling the streets, the RSP has staked out downtown (they have pretty much all the weapons for the country, and are guarding the armories), and are assuming a defensive posture. The army has stated that they want NO bloodshed, but they are wiling to fight to disband the RSP.
To complicate matters, in reality the RSP are the most well-trained soldiers Burkina Faso has. Without them, they are certainly in a weaker state militarily, but as long as they are preying on the system for their personal benefit, they aren’t very effective for the nation anyway.
Rumor has it (I’ve been trying to avoid rumors) that about 500 of the 1300 RSP have deserted…they either don’t want to fight their own countrymen, or they don’t support the coup in general. No one knows the number for sure, but at this point, things can go either of two ways.
- Dienderé tells the RSP to stand down (ostensibly for his own immunity), and everything calms back down and everyone wins, or
- The RSP digs in, the soldiers advance, the people line up on the side of the soldiers, and hell breaks loose.
So Dienderé has sort of disappeared, but folks say he is hiding out with the Mogho Naba. That is interesting because it was the Mogho Naba who told Dienderé last year to turn over power to a transition government after the ouster of Campoaré.
But he just released this message: (translated from French).
From: Brigadier Dienderé Gilbert, President of the CND and the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP)
I deplore the loss of lives, injury and property damage, and offer my condolences to the bereaved families, I confirm my commitment to deliver power to the civil authorities of the Transition Government at the conclusion of the final agreement to end the crisis under the aegis of ECOWAS. (To show my good faith,) I order the release of Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Yacouba ADIZ as a sign of appeasement according to the draft agreement. I am commited to working for the cohesion of the Army; please accept my apologies to the nation and the international community.
Ouagadougou September 21, 2015
Brigadier General Gilbert Diendéré
President of CND
Who knows what this means…not me. But it’s far better than “Come ‘n GIT me!!” Does it mean “Sorry for all this…we’ll give you our guns and preserve the Union”, or does it mean “Sorry for all this, but I am still the leader of the country and the RSP is here to protect you all from the insurgent army who is trying to take our weapons!” I sure don’t know.
Anyway…as much as it sound like I must be nuts to still be here, its not like that. First of all…all this is happening between the army and the RSP, and the ‘playing field’ is downtown…far from my house. There are ZERO random mobs of looters strolling around the neighborhoods….that is zero in the ENTIRE COUNTRY. No one is targeting the civilians, so as long as we don’t go down to see the riots, there is ZERO danger of bodily harm.
The only real risks are the same that you would have from being cooped up in your house because of a big storm…the electricity might go out (I have a backup generator and 40 hours of fuel), the water might go out (I have about 30 liters of bottled water, a functioning water filter, and about 30 more liters of ‘brown water’ for flushing), food might run out if the stores shut down (I have enough stuff here for a week, for sure, and lots of resourceful folks are coming around the houses selling bread, fruit, veggies, etc). If the airport closes and we need to bug out, I have a solid 4WD with a full tank (and a jerrycan), loaded with water, sleeping bag, food and room for company.
Really…I feel totally prepared and I’m not doing anything stupid. This will blow over soon and we can get back to educating kids.