Burkina Faso’s former coup leader Gen. Gilbert Diendere took refuge at the Vatican’s compound in the country’s capital city after the army opened fire on his forces to force them to put down their arms. A person close to the Catholic clergy who spoke on anonymity said the short-term military ruler is sheltering at the Vatican Apostolic Nunciature in Ouagadougou, according to the Associated Press.
Earlier reports said Diendere was in negotiations Wednesday at an unnamed embassy on turning himself in to the transitional government, which he and his supporters in the elite presidential guard tried to overthrow. "General Gilbert Diendere has retreated to a diplomatic mission. Talks are ongoing on his handover to the interim authority," the government said in a statement, without specifying the embassy concerned, according to AFP news agency.
The coup leader fled shortly before troops loyal to Burkina Faso’s transitional government stormed barracks held by his forces in Ouagadougou Tuesday, according to Reuters. Diendere said the army “fired artillery” and called on his supporters to disarm, fearing there had been many deaths from the raid on the military base, which is situated next to the presidential palace. At the time, Diendere said he was in a “safe place” and ready to surrender to authorities.
“I am willing to turn myself over to face justice,” he told AFP Tuesday. “I would like the people of Burkina Faso to find a solution to this crisis through dialogue. All parties must talk to find an inclusive solution for the future of our country.”
The West African nation plunged into chaos when soldiers of the elite presidential guard, the Regiment of Presidential Security, interrupted a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace and kidnapped interim President Michel Kafando, interim Prime Minister Isaac Zida and two ministers. Thousands of people protested on the streets demanding an end to the declared coup d’état, which was condemned by leaders around the world. Soldiers loyal to the transitional government converged on the capital and ended the rebellion a week later.
Diendere and his short-lived junta, called the National Democratic Council, were supporters of ousted ruler Blaise Compaore, who was forced to resign by an uprising against his fifth-term bid and fled the country last year. Kafando, a former ambassador to the United Nations, was then quickly appointed interim president in the transitional government last October.