General Gilbert Diendere military coup Burkina Faso
General Gilbert Diendere at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou following a coup carried out by the Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) Getty

A general behind a failed military coup occurred in Burkina Faso in September has been charged with crimes against humanity. Gilbert Diendere was at the head of a military coup carried out by presidential guard known as Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) loyal to Burkina Faso's previous long-time leader Blaise Compaore.

Compaore stepped down in 2014 following violent protests over his decision to participate in 2015's presidential election after 27 years in power. The former leader fled to the Ivory Coast, while the RSP − which he had installed during his leadership − remained in power and tried to oust interim president Michel Kafando weeks before the election, originally scheduled for October, was due to be held.

Burkina Faso

  • Capital: Ouagadougou
  • Population: 16.9 million
  • Official language: French
  • Main religions: Islam, Christianity, Animism
  • Largest cities: Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Koudougou, Ouahigouya, Banfora
  • Currency: West African Franc

Following violent protests that resulted in the deaths of at least 14 people – according to Amnesty International – and negotiations chaired by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), Kafando was reinstated as interim leader, while Diendere had his assets frozen and the RSP was disbanded.

Diendere sought sanctuary at the residence of the Vatican's ambassador following the failure of the coup. He then gave himself up to the Burkinabe authorities and said he was willing to face justice. In October, he was charged by a court in Burkina with crimes including murder.

It is believed the coup was carried out after a commission suggested the RSP be disbanded amid allegations it had fired on unarmed protesters during 2014 protests. RSP also said it was unhappy with the ban on candidates who were close to Compaore in the forthcoming election. Rumours also spread that Compaore was behind the coup and the RSP tried to bring the former leader back to power.

The government announced that the country will hold presidential and legislative election on 29 November. It is not yet clear whether people close to Compaore will be allowed to participate in the elections.