The political situation seems quiet for the moment. The big story this morning is that the presidents of Senegal and Benin are coming in to mediate between the presidential guard regiment and what appears to be a consensus of civil society and the rest of the armed forces. Nobody is confirming that the President of the Transitional Council, Cherif Sy, is under the protection of the Gendarmerie Nationale, but he has a phone and hasn’t been arrested. He has declared himself provisional president in competition with the boss of the Presidential Guard regiment, General Diendéré. The Balai Citoyen “Civic Broom” civil society movement that overthrew the old government of President Compaoré has declared non-cooperation and called for demonstrations, but has refrained from challenging the military directly by organizing demonstrations in front of the national palace as they did Wednesday night, which resulted in between 3 and 10 deaths and dozens of wounded treated at hospitals. Most military units have remained in their barracks (aside from the Presidential Guard, of course). The main “activist” radio station is still off the air but RFI (Radio France Internationale) has resumed broadcasting in FM and every radio I have heard has been tuned to their signal. They are reporting actively on developments and seem to have good sources.
I had an appointment with my supervisor at the University, Mme Ilboudo, this morning. I went out walking, heading that way, when she called and said the meeting was off. She said I should stay home and so I walked back to the house. I was accompanied by a couple of my pint-sized bodyguards, Emmanuel and Richard. I took the opportunity to stop by the church in the neighborhood and see if I could pick up a French missal, but all the priests seemed to be on vacation and the office was closed. Nonetheless, the streets were fairly busy. Stores were open or opening, people moving about normally, women and children visible in normal numbers. Down at the traffic intersection where they were burning tires yesterday the only sign were some circular marks on the pavement – shades of Haiti – and a bit of a smell. People were out selling fruit, soap, peanuts, the usual things. The only thing missing was cops – not even the purple-clad traffic officers were visible. Since nobody here obeys traffic laws anyway one hardly noticed the difference.
Here’s a link to a BBC article with more details, pictures, etc.
I sat at the little neighborhood restaurant and had an omlette and toast for breakfast. The proprietor is a very garrulous guy with a lot of political opinions. He was hopeful about the intervention of the neighboring presidents especially because President of Senegal is the president of the Economic Community of West African States, which among other things maintains the currency here, the CFA franc, and also led an intervention force that got involved in the Liberia and Sierra Leone Civil Wars. ECOWAS opposition is something for the Presidential Guard leadership to be concerned about. He dismisses the civic opposition groups as having overplayed their hand and failed to preserve unity after the events of last October, though.
National TV is now announcing that the president (though not the prime minister and the other hostages, at least they weren’t mentioned) is to be released. Unclear if this means they are backing down from the coup or if there has been some sort of deal. Small-arms fire up the street as I am typing.