A day of high tension

September 22, 2015

A little before 11:00 Am at Brenda Soya’s house.

The loyalists in the army gave a deadline of 10 AM for the rebels to lay down their arms, but nothing has happened yet. About 20 minutes ago, the BBC put a story up on their website reporting that loyal troops were on the move in the city, but no sign from here. We are about a kilometer from the presidential palace, and the barracks of the RSP is another several hundred meters beyond that. So if there were any troop movements we’d know about them.

I imagine that what is going on is a giant game of chicken, with neither side willing to give in and also nobody willing to open fire. The army high command has the numbers, and apparently the weapons, but nobody wants a violent outcome.

General Diendéré is on the TV saying that he apologizes to the international community and the Burkinabé people, but not announcing his surrender. He says he’ll fight if the army attacks him. Looks like a repeat of a statement he made last night accepting the mediator’s recommendations, which he rejected at the time and which the transitional government and army have already rejected. The mediators, presidents of Sénégal and Bénin, have gone to Abuja with their fellow presidents from the region and are meeting at this hour. I wonder if anything will come out of their meeting – presumably, the chiefs of state will withdraw the mediators’ proposals and call for the rebels to lay down their arms, perhaps in exchange for an amnesty.

The EU has called for the rebels to lay down their arms unconditionally. Unclear if they (specifically France, the former colonial power and regular intervenor in African countries) have any plans to intervene, send peace-keepers, or what have you to bring order.

6:30, still at Brenda’s house

She just arrived from work, shortly before the Ambassador began to speak on the radio. He read a very nice statement, saying that the US had always been in favor of a negotiated solution that restored the government to power and had only been present for the negotiations for the (now universally detested) ECOWAS settlement proposal. He said the US was committed to support a peaceful democratic transition without being too precise about what that support would look like.

Brenda also said that they were really concerned that there would be a major battle last night, but that cooler heads appear to have prevailed. There was one very dicey moment that I overheard; a burst of gunfire when a group of loyalist soldiers fired on the guards at a weapons depot near here. Everybody was ready to start a major action but officers on both sides kept their guys in line. The RSP is experiencing defections, she says, though they still have a hard core of hundreds of soldiers and plenty of heavy weapons out at their camp. The French 24hour news channel is showing a group of about 100 RSP soldiers getting off a bus at the camp outside of town. They are unarmed but no sign of guards, etc. The remaining RSP are not attempting to hold the city or interfere in any way. The regular army command has called on citizens to remain in their homes. From what I could see as I was leaving last night, my neighbors were respecting this in a way, remaining close to their homes and keeping all weapons, Molotov cocktails, rocks, etc. out of sight.

As to my program, I am currently “suspended”. This means that the embassy will pay for me to evacuate to Accra, Ghana, for a period of up to 15 days, then back to the US if the situation doesn’t resolve itself by then. I’ll be presumably getting per diem while I’m there. So not quite an evacuation. For right now, there are no flights and the land borders are closed so I’m not going anywhere anyway. If this situation resolves itself in a day or two then there won’t be an evacuation at all. Otherwise, I’ll be enjoying the pleasures of a very nice African city. I was actually looking forward to visiting El Mina Castle near Cape Coast sometime, this might be my chance.

September 23, 2015

Sitting in the Soya’s living room, still no movement on anything. There is a meeting going on at the embassy where our future is being debated. Hopefully the embassy will open later today and I can get in, change money, and use their internet (which is working because they have a satellite connection).

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