Court Jails Two Generals Over 2015 Coup In Burkina Faso

 

A military court in Burkina Faso on Monday convicted and jailed two generals on charges of masterminding a coup in the fragile Sahel state in 2015.

General Gilbert Diendere was convicted on charges of murder and harming state security and handed a 20-year prison term, while General Djibrill Bassole, accused of treason, was ordered jailed for 10 years.

The coup, carried out by troops loyal to ousted president Blaise Compaore, was thwarted by public protest but at the cost of 14 lives and nearly 300 wounded.

The two generals were the leading figures in a 19-month trial of 84 people accused of the attempted overthrow of Burkina’s transitional government.

The coup was mounted by an elite unit of the army, the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), on September 16 2015, less than a month before scheduled general elections.

It fizzled out within a week after army-backed street protestors attacked the rebels’ barracks.

Compaore had fled to Ivory Coast in 2014 after 27 years in office marked by assassinations and mounting public unrest.

He was forced out by a revolt sparked by his attempts to extend his grip on power, and a transitional government took the helm.

Diendere, 60, who had been Compaore’s right-hand man and a former head of the RSP, took the head of the putschists’ governing body, the so-called National Council for Democracy.

Bassole, 62, was a foreign minister under Compaore.

Both had denied the charges.

But the prosecution, which had sought life sentences, said the pair had been instrumental in events.

Diendere was “the main instigator in the coup” and Bassole “helped to prepare (it),” said military prosecutor Pascaline Zoungrana.

Among 10 rebel troops who arrested members of the transitional government, a sentence of 19 years was handed down against a non-commissioned officer, Eloi Badiel, and 17 years against another NCO, Moussa Nebie, nicknamed Rambo. The others in this group were given 15 years.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mamadou Bamba, who had read the coup leaders’ statement on television, was given 10 years, five of them suspended.

 Traumatic 

Although the would-be putsch was quickly quelled, it had traumatic consequences for Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries with a history of chronic instability.

It dug a deep rift in the armed forces, weakening their ability to cope with mounting jihadist attacks that have now claimed more than 500 lives, analysts say.

Many in Burkina have been hoping that the end of the trial will shed light on what happened and usher in reconciliation.

Guy-Herve Kam, a lawyer representing civilian plaintiffs, said the trial had served the purposes of transparency.

“Today, we know who did what and, especially, why.”

AFP

Ethiopia Mourns After Bloody Coup Attempt

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on television on June 23, 2019 after a failed coup.  HO / Ethiopian TV / AFP

 

The death toll from two attacks believed linked to an attempted coup in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara state rose to five on Monday, as flags flew at half-mast on what was declared a national day of mourning.

Police were hunting for Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige, accused of masterminding an attack on the leaders of the state and suspected of playing a part in the killing of the country’s army chief in Addis Ababa.

READ ALSO: Sudan Killings: Al-Bashir Should Face Justice, Says ICC

The attorney general of Amhara state, Migbaru Kebede, died of gunshot injuries from the attack on Monday, state broadcaster EBC reported, making him the fifth victim of the violence.

The unrest has delivered another major challenge for Ethiopia’s young Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has embarked on a series of reforms in a bid to open up the authoritarian state which has unleashed ethnic tensions and bitter political rivalries.

The attacks, whose exact motives remain unclear, began on Saturday afternoon when gunmen attacked a meeting of top officials in Amhara, the second-largest of Ethiopia’s nine autonomous states.

Amhara president Ambachew Mekonnen, who was an ally of Abiy’s, as well as his adviser were killed, while Migbaru succumbed to his wounds on Monday after what Abiy described as an “attempted coup” in the region.

A few hours later in an upmarket suburb of the capital Addis Ababa army chief Seare Mekonnen, who was coordinating the response to the unrest in Amhara, was shot dead by his bodyguard. A visiting general was also killed.

Abiy’s office said the killing of Seare “seems like a coordinated attack”, however, there have been no further official details and observers point out that there were no telltale signs of a concerted national coup.

A statement from his office announced that the bodyguard and other perpetrators had been arrested, while a police source on Sunday told AFP that Asaminew was still on the run.

Asaminew was only last year released from almost a decade in prison over a 2009 coup plot under an amnesty.

Analysts describe him as a hardline Amhara nationalist who was likely facing removal from his job over efforts to form a militia and rhetoric pushing for territory in neighbouring Tigray to be reclaimed.

He recently appeared in a Facebook video calling for civilians to arm themselves in preparation for an attack.

 ‘Stay united’ 

A statement read on state television on Sunday night from parliament speaker Tagesse Chafo called for the country to “stay together and united” as he announced a national day of mourning.

“All of us will remember the people who lost their lives for our togetherness and unity,” a television announcer said, reading a statement from speaker Tagesse Chafo.

“It is a sad day for the whole nation. We have lost people who were patriotic. They are martyrs of peace.”

The European Union in a statement urged “restraint from all sides of the Ethiopian political spectrum, both at national and regional levels.”

“The EU firmly reiterates the need for continued peaceful and democratic reforms in Ethiopia and its support to the efforts of the Prime Minister and his government in this context,” said the statement.

Minister of Defence Lemma Megresa described Seare as “humble, a very good colleague, a brother”, on national television on Sunday night.

“The attack left the country in a difficult position. It is important for the army to remain united in this difficult time,” he said.

The internet remained completely cut across the nation for the third consecutive day, after being severed for much of the prior week without explanation.

 Security beefed up 

In the capital Addis Ababa, it was a busy morning as people went about their business, as usual, however, security at the airport had been beefed up with the presence of special forces.

In the Amhara capital Bahir Dar there was a significant presence of federal police officers around government offices, residents told AFP.

Observers have said that the killings underscore the tensions across Ethiopia sparked by Abiy’s efforts since he came to power in April 2018 to loosen the iron grip of a state long run by emperors and strongmen.

His efforts to transition from one-party state to democracy have seen him embarking on economic reforms, he has allowed dissident groups back into the country, sought to crack down on rights abuses and arrested dozens of top military and intelligence officials.

His moves have been lauded abroad, but have made him enemies at home, and exactly a year ago he survived a grenade attack at a rally which left two dead.

Long-simmering ethnic tensions along the borders of the autonomous regions — divided along ethnic lines — have burst into violence, leaving scores dead and more than a million displaced.

Meanwhile, the prospect of elections in 2020 has shaken up local politics as longstanding regional parties find themselves facing challengers to their power, while observers say there has been a surge of ethnonationalism.

The Amhara are the second-largest ethnic grouping after the Oromo, and both spearheaded two years of anti-government protests which led to the resignation of former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

AFP

Atiku Condemns Coup Attempt In Ethiopia

INEC Denying Atiku Access To Election Materials Despite Court Order, Says PDP
A file photo of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.

 

Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the general elections, Atiku Abubakar, has condemned the coup attempt in Ethiopia.

According to him, democracy has come to stay in Africa and Africans must accept that.

Following a wave of unrest, the country’s army chief was shot dead Saturday, by his bodyguard just hours after the attempted coup in Amhara State left the Regional President and another top adviser dead.

Spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told journalists a “hit squad” led by Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige burst into a meeting on Saturday afternoon and shot regional president Ambachew Mekonnen and another top official.

The men were “gravely injured in the attack and later died of their wounds,” she said.

“Several hours later in what seems like a co-ordinated attack, the chief of the staff of the national security forces Seare Mekonnen was killed in his home by his bodyguard.”

Also shot dead was a retired general who had been visiting him, Billene added.

The bodyguard has been apprehended while Asaminew is still on the loose, sources said.

Analysts say the incident showed the seriousness of the political crisis in Ethiopia, where efforts by Abiy to loosen the iron-fisted grip of his predecessors and push through reforms have unleashed a wave of unrest.

“These tragic incidents unfortunately demonstrate the depth of Ethiopia’s political crisis,” said International Crisis Group analyst William Davison.

“It is now critical that actors across the country do not worsen the instability by reacting violently or trying to exploit this unfolding situation for their own political ends,” the expert said.

African Union Threatens To Suspend Sudan Over Coup

Egypt’s President and current Chairperson of the African Union, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. SEYLLOU / AFP

 

The African Union on Monday threatened to suspend Sudan following last week’s coup that saw Omar al-Bashir ousted by the military after nearly three decades in power.

If the junta fails to hand power to civilians within 15 days, the AU will suspend “the participation of Sudan in all AU’s activities until the restoration of constitutional order,” the body’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) said in a statement.

Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years before he was deposed last week following mass protests that have rocked the country since December.

READ ALSO: Sudan’s New Military Council Chief Steps Down

The protesters have remained in the streets, demanding a return to civilian rule from the military council that’s replaced, Bashir.

The AU echoed the protesters’ demands, calling the military intervention a “coup d’Etat, which (the PSC) strongly condemns.”

The body, which has 55 member states, added that “a military-led transition would be completely contrary to the aspirations of the people of Sudan.”

AFP

Jubilation In Sudan As Military Chief Steps Down

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the new chief of the military council taking over in Sudan following the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir, speaking with demonstrators outside the army headquarters in the capital Khartoum.  SUDAN NEWS AGENCY / AFP

 

Crowds of Sudanese waving flags and chanting “we toppled two presidents in two days” celebrated in the capital late Friday after the country’s military council chief stepped down a day after he was sworn in.

“We have done it, we have done it,” shouted young men and women as they drove across Khartoum after General Awad Ibn Ouf announced his resignation on state television.

On Thursday, he was sworn in as the chief of a ruling military council that replaced long-time president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted by the army following months of deadly protests.

READ ALSO: Sudan’s New Military Council Chief Steps Down

Before quitting, Ibn Ouf appointed Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan as his successor, setting off a wave of jubilation across the city.

Car horns sounded on the streets as jubilant crowds streamed out of their homes to cheer the departure of Ibn Ouf, considered a regime insider and close aide of Bashir.

Chants like “It fell again, it fell again” reverberated across the capital’s squares and neighbourhoods, onlookers said.

“This was our second uprising, first against Bashir and then against Ibn Ouf,” said Mohamed, a protester, whistling and clapping in an upscale Khartoum neighbourhood.

Dozens of members of a paramilitary group stood at the sidelines, many atop pick-up vehicles loaded with machine-guns, as cheering crowds drove past, witnesses said.

Protest organisers however warned Burhan that if he failed to transfer powers to a civilian transitional government he would face their fury too.

They called on Burhan to reverse decisions announced by Ibn Ouf such as cancelling the suspension of the constitution and also implored him to end the state of emergency and night-time curfew.

Crowds flock to demo 

Thousands of protesters have massed outside the army headquarters in the capital since April 6.

Earlier on Friday, throngs of Sudanese chanting “it will fall again, it will fall again” flocked there to hunker down for a second night defying the curfew, witnesses said.

Dressed in white traditional clothes, men and women headed to the military complex to join thousands of others camped there.

“We did it once, we can do it again,” said a protester, who had been at the site of the demonstration since Tuesday night.

Since the appointment of Ibn Ouf as military council chief, the protesters had turned their anger against him.

“We don’t want Ibn Ouf, we don’t want any military government,” said one protester.

“This entire group is from Bashir’s regime. We want a civilian leader.”

Several soldiers were however seen chatting and mingling with protesters at the complex on Friday, witnesses said.

As the evening approached, buses full of protesters headed to the protest site with plans to defy the curfew again, a witness told AFP.

 ‘Reject the announcement’ 

A mass of people flooded two bridges that connect the capital with suburbs.

At the protest site itself thousands offered Friday prayers earlier in the day.

An imam dressed in a white robe with a Sudanese flag draped over his shoulder led the weekly prayer.

“This is the first time that I’m coming here in response to calls that today’s prayers will be performed here,” said Hussein Mohamed, an elderly man who came to the site from Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city across the Nile.

Groups of Coptic Christians served food and drinks to worshippers ahead of their prayers.

Many offered mats to protesters who had been camping at the site since last night.

“Protesters reject the announcement, protesters reject the announcement,” chanted women, raising their hands in the air, after praying under a makeshift tent at the complex.

Witnesses said the entire area reverberated with the sound of singing.

Protesters were chanting in circles, with one leading the song and others dancing in circles around him repeating it.

Groups like this are everywhere, said one demonstrator as behind him musicians played traditional Sudanese and African tunes.

Later in the night when Ibn Ouf quit, demonstrators at the complex burst into joy, many kissing photographs of those killed in protests, an onlooker said.

Demonstrators chanted “What happened? It fell again,” he said.

Protest organisers have called on the demonstrators to continue with the sit-in until their demands are met.

AFP

Russia Accuses US Of Plotting ‘Coup’ In Venezuela

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov/ AFP

 

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Monday accused the United States of plotting a “coup” against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in a dispute over Russian military assistance for the crisis-hit country.

Lavrov said in a statement he had complained of “attempts by Washington to organise a coup d’etat in Venezuela” during a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The statement said such moves “constitute violations of the UN charter and undisguised interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state”.

READ ALSO: Special Counsel Mueller Clears Trump Of Conspiring With Russia

Pompeo earlier warned Russia that the United States will not “stand idly by” as Moscow inserts military personnel into Venezuela to support Maduro, a State Department statement said.

Russian state news agency Sputnik reported Sunday that two Russian military planes delivered troops and equipment to Venezuela over the weekend.

Lavrov did not comment on that report.

Pompeo said Russian military reinforcements were prolonging the political crisis in the South American country.

Venezuela is rich in oil but has plunged into economic crisis, suffering hyperinflation and shortages of food and basic goods.

Washington and its allies support Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and recognise his claim to be acting president in defiance of Maduro.

Socialist leader Maduro retains the support of Russia and China, US rivals who have offered him political and economic support.

AFP

Gabon President Returns After Failed Coup

 Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba attends the closing ceremony of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations football tournament at the Stade de l’Amitie Sino-Gabonaise in Libreville.GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo was back in Libreville on Tuesday after months abroad recovering from a stroke, ending an absence that saw an attempted coup by renegade soldiers. 

After returning from Morocco in the early hours of the morning, Bongo presided over a ceremony at which ministers from the new government were sworn in, officials said.

The oil-rich West African state has been without an effective government for months since Bongo, 59, suffered the stroke in late October during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

After initial treatment at a hospital in Riyadh, Bongo was transferred to Morocco where he spent just over six weeks, officials said.

His return came eight days after a small group of renegade soldiers briefly tried to stage a coup before it was quashed by security forces, who arrested the leader and killed two others.

With Bongo’s prolonged absence, the country had been in limbo for months and officials at the presidential palace did not say whether he was back for good or would return to the Moroccan capital Rabat for further convalescence.

On Saturday, a new government was unveiled in a video announcement from Rabat although there were no significant changes to either the cabinet or the government.

All 38 ministers arrived at the beachside presidential palace in Libreville on Tuesday and were sworn in at a ceremony which was closed to the press, officials said.

‘A very difficult ordeal’ 

Bongo has not been seen in public since he was taken to hospital on October 24 in Riyadh but a video of the ceremony was released later on Tuesday.

The footage shows Bongo opening and closing the session, but there are only brief glimpses of him, shots of just a few seconds which show him seated in a wheelchair and squinting slightly.

“It was very moving to see him,” government spokesman Nanette Longa-Makinda told AFP.

“It will certainly take him several months to fully recover his physical abilities, that’s for sure,” one minister said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He looks like someone who has been through a very difficult ordeal,” agreed another cabinet colleague who was present at the ceremony.

So far, officials have said very little about Bongo’s health, with a presidential spokesman insisting things were back to normal.

“There can be no more talk about a power vacuum,” the spokesman said, using a phrase repeated by many ministers leaving the ceremony.

‘Circus goes on’ 

Before now, Bongo’s only appearance was his traditional televised New Year’s Eve address, recorded in Morocco, in which he said he had “been through a difficult period”.

Critics seized on signs of his apparent ill-health, noting the address was unusually short, his speech was slurred and his right hand seemed stiff and immobile.

His long-awaited return did little to quieten lingering suspicions among the people of Gabon.

“The circus goes on,” tweeted Marc Ona Essangui, a civil society leader.

When Bongo was first taken ill, the singular lack of official news — along with memories of the secrecy around the death of his father Omar Bongo in 2009 — had fuelled a flurry of rumours, including speculation he was incapacitated or even dead.

The Bongo family has governed Gabon for five decades, and long maintained close ties with former colonial master France.

Ali Bongo was elected head of state after his father’s death and he was narrowly re-elected in 2016 following a presidential poll marred by deadly violence and allegations of fraud.

AFP

Gabon Announces New Government From Morocco After Failed Coup

The presidential election shows the entrance to the presidential palace in Libreville. AFP

 

Gabon’s prime minister announced a new government in a video message recorded thousands of miles away in Morocco, where ailing Gabonese President Ali Bongo is recovering from a stroke.

Recently appointed PM Julien Nkoghe Bekale gave details of the reshuffle in footage broadcast late Saturday on state television, less than a week after the country foiled an attempted coup.

Gabon has been without effective government for months since Bongo suffered the stroke in October during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

A new cabinet was also announced on Saturday evening by presidential secretary Jean-Yves Teale in another video missive recorded in Morocco. No significant changes were made to either the cabinet or the government.

Gabon’s constitution states that ministers must take their vows before the president — but in Bongo’s lengthening absence it is unclear how, when and where the ceremony will take place.

On Monday renegade soldiers stormed a state radio station to call for an uprising while Bongo was abroad.

Security forces captured the rebel chief and killed two of his men at the broadcasting offices in the capital Libreville, restoring calm to the city after hours of upheaval.

However, questions remain over the balance of power in the West African nation where political change has been negligible for more than half a century.

Brice Laccruche Alihanga, head of the cabinet since 2017 who is reportedly close to first lady Sylvia Bongo, retained his post in the new line-up.

Ali Bongo, 59, is the son of Omar Bongo, who became head of state in 1967 and died in June 2009, leaving a legacy of corruption allegations.

AFP

Era Of Coups Is Long Gone, Buhari Warns Gabonese Military

Era Of Coups Is Long Gone, Buhari Warns Gabonese Military
President Muhammadu Buhari (file)

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has cautioned the military in Gabon against any attempt to overthrow the government of the country.

He gave the warning on Tuesday in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.

“The military officers in Gabon should understand that the era of military coups and governments in Africa and indeed worldwide, is long gone,” said President Buhari who is also the ECOWAS Chairman.

The President condemned the attempted takeover of the Gabonese government by military officers who seized the state radio station, declaring their dissatisfaction with President Ali Bongo, who is recovering from a stroke in Morocco.


RELATED POSTS
Gabon Soldiers Seize State Radio In Apparent Coup Attempt
Gabon Rebel Chief Caught, Two Killed In Failed Coup – Presidency


He, therefore, called for respect for constitutional provisions in the oil-rich west-central African nation.

“Democracy is supreme and the constitutional stipulations on the peaceful change of administration must be respected,” President Buhari insisted.

“That is the only way we can ensure peace and stability not only within the country but also in the region.”

President Buhari further urged military officers with political ambitions in the continent and beyond to resign or face their constitutional role.

He asked the people of Gabon to remain on the side of peace, security, stability and democracy in their country.

On Monday, the leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defence and Security Forces of Gabon, Lieutenant Kelly Ondo Obiang, had said a New Year’s Eve address by Bongo “reinforced doubts about the president’s ability to continue to carry out of the responsibilities of his office.”

But the Gabonese government had said it was in control and that most of those involved in the failed coup had been arrested.

It added that the chief military rebel had been taken into custody while two of his commandos were killed.

Gabon Rebel Chief Caught, Two Killed In Failed Coup – Presidency

The entrance to the presidential palace in Libreville. AFP

 

The chief military rebel who led a failed coup in Gabon on Monday has been arrested and two of his commandos killed after they stormed a public radio station, the presidency said.

A group of soldiers attempted to take power and called in a radio appeal for a popular uprising against ailing President Ali Bongo, who is abroad recovering from a stroke.

Security forces stormed the radio station in the capital Libreville to take it back, killing two rebel troops, arresting their leader and freeing journalists who had been forced to help rebels make their appeal.

“The situation is under control,” the presidency statement said.

Six rebel troops earlier Monday burst into the state radio broadcasting station, “neutralising” gendarmes in front of the building before making their broadcast, it said.

Officials earlier said five rebels had entered the building and four had been arrested.

The message was read by a person who identified himself as Lieutenant Ondo Obiang Kelly, the deputy commander of the Republican Guard and head of a previously unknown group, the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces.

He said a “national restoration council” would be formed in the former French colony “to guarantee a democratic transition for the Gabonese people”.

Bongo is staying at a private residence in the Moroccan capital Rabat after suffering a stroke. He made a televised speech on New Year’s Eve but has not been in the West African country since October.

AFP

African Union Condemns Coup Attempt In Gabon

In this video grab made on a video footage obtained on YouTube on January 7, 2019, Gabon soldiers on state radio called on the people to “rise up” and announced a “national restoration council” would be formed, as an ailing President Ali Bongo is out of the country. YOUTUBE / AFP

 

African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat “strongly condemned” an attempted coup by rebel soldiers in the Gabonese capital on Monday.

“The African Union strongly condemns the coup attempt this morning in Gabon. I reaffirm the AU’s total rejection of all unconstitutional change of power,” he wrote on Twitter.

AFP

Gabon Govt Says ‘Situation Under Control,’ Rebels Seized

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 22, 2009 ahead of the presidential election shows the entrance to the presidential palace in Libreville. AFP

 

The government of Gabon declared that it was in control after an attempted coup by army rebels Monday and that it had arrested most of those involved.

“Calm has returned, the situation is under control,” government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou told AFP.

Only hours earlier, soldiers burst into state radio and called on the people to “rise up,” an apparent bid to oust ailing President Ali Bongo, who is out of the country. Of the five who did this, according to Mapangou, “four have been arrested and one is on the run.”

AFP