Military detains Burkina Faso leaders weeks ahead of vote

AP News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2015 1:45 PM

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Soldiers detained Burkina Faso's transitional president and prime minister Wednesday, raising fears of a coup just weeks before the country was to hold an election to replace its longtime leader who was ousted in a popular uprising late last year.

Members of the military showed up at the presidential offices Wednesday afternoon and barred the transitional leaders from leaving, Achille Tapsoba, who works at the presidency, told The Associated Press.

Interim President Michel Kafando and Prime Minister Lt. Col. Yacouba Isaac Zida were tasked with organizing the Oct. 11 presidential election, which many hoped would strengthen the country's democracy.

There have been tensions over the vote because members of the ex-president's party have been declared ineligible. Anyone who supported the ex-president's bid to amend the constitution so he could seek another term also is banned from running.

Another chief source of tension has been an ongoing dispute between the transitional officials and the country's elite Presidential Security Regiment. The 1,300-strong group has called for the resignation of the interim prime minister, who is a former second-in-command of the unit. He had threatened to disband the group back in December but later reversed course.

Burkina Faso's military initially had picked Zida to lead the country when it swooped in and took control in the power vacuum after President Blaise Compaore's resignation. The international community urged the military to swiftly hand back power or face crippling economic sanctions. Kafando, a former ambassador to the U.N., was then chosen as transitional president, and he tapped Zida to serve as prime minister.

Burkina Faso hosts French special forces and serves as an important ally of both France and the United States in the fight against Islamic militants in West Africa. While Burkina Faso has largely been spared from extremist violence, a Romanian national was abducted in April, and a Mali-based jihadist group claimed responsibility.