Burkina Faso’s military has taken to the airwaves to declare it now controls the country, confirming that a coup has taken place weeks before elections.
The announcement, broadcast on national television and radio, said the country’s transitional government had been dissolved and the interim president was no longer in power.
The coup leaders, who come from an elite presidential guard unit that had disagreed publicly with the transitional government in recent months, identified themselves as the National Council for Democracy.
Their public statement confirmed what many suspected when the transitional president and prime minister were arrested and barricades were erected around the presidency on Wednesday.
Hours later, the coup leaders announced that a military general and former aide to the former long-time president now leads Burkina Faso. General Gilbert Diendere had been head of the elite presidential guard until President Blaise Compaore was ousted in a popular uprising sparked by a bid to prolong his rule.
The coup leaders also said that the land and air borders are now closed, and that a curfew would be in effect from 7pm to 6am.
The international community has condemned the coup, which violated the country’s constitution.
“The United States strongly condemns any attempt to seize power through extra-constitutional means or resolve internal political disagreements using force,” said a statement issued by US State Department spokesman John Kirby.
The statement read by Lieutenant Colonel Mamadou Bamba criticised the electoral code, which blocked members of the ex-president’s party from taking part in the October 11 elections. Anyone who supported the ex-president’s bid to amend the constitution so he could seek another term is also banned from running.
He announced the beginning of a “coherent, fair and equitable process” that would lead to inclusive elections.
The transitional government came to power after Compaore, the president of 27 years, was ousted late last year in a public uprising. Demonstrators at one point had set fire to the parliament building to protest his move to amend the constitution so he could prolong his rule.
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 jihadi group claimed responsibility.