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Is reversal of Burkina Faso’s coup a sign of things to come in Africa?

Burkina Faso President Michel Kafando wipes his face as he delivers a statement to the media on Sept. 23

Burkina Faso President Michel Kafando wipes his face as he delivers a statement to the media on Sept. 23

(Sia Kambou / AFP/Getty Images)

Burkina Faso’s interim president was formally ushered back into power Wednesday a week after being overthrown and arrested by the presidential guard, raising hopes that West Africa might be moving beyond such coups.

The intervention of regional leaders to hammer out a deal that sent the putschists back to their barracks was the decisive factor, although furious protests against it played a key part.

In recent years, African leaders have united firmly against any violent seizures of power.

President Michel Kafando told journalists he was back at work Wednesday, after the coup dribbled to an end following days of knife-edge tension in the capital. It was clear that the old-style African coups, where military men push out governments and take over, are now far more difficult to sustain, with regional and international leaders willing to cut aid, impose sanctions and isolate those who seize power.

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Six West African leaders flew in to attend the formal ceremony in Ouagadougou, the capital, underlining the message that violent takeovers will not be tolerated in the region. Gen. Gilbert Diendere, the coup leader, was absent from the gathering, although he earlier welcomed the visitors as they arrived at the airport.

The presidential guard and the regular army held a tense standoff after army commanders Monday ordered the unit to lay down its arms. But the deal mediated by the regional Economic Community of West African States averted further violence, and the guards agreed to restore civilian rule and return to barracks.

The regional leaders were also present to oversee negotiations on several unresolved questions, including whether those who launched the coup would face prosecution or be granted amnesty.

“During this ordeal we have fought together and in freedom we triumph together,” Kafando said Wednesday. “We are proud of the intrepidity of the Burkinabe people, in particular its youth.”

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The coup came a year after President Blaise Compaore tried to extend his 27-year-rule for another five years, triggering furious street protests that ultimately toppled him from power and forced him to flee the country with his family.

A transitional government and parliament were established, with elections due Oct. 11. Lawmakers barred former members of the Compaore regime from seeking election – triggering the coup led by Diendere, a close Compaore ally.

Many analysts saw the coup as a last-ditch effort by members of the former Compaore administration to engineer elections on their own terms, but Diendere has denied this in media interviews.

The central contentious question still remaining is whether the elections will be open to all, or whether a parliamentary ban on former regime members participating in the poll will stand.

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For news from Africa, follow @RobynDixon_LAT

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