OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s army chief encouraged a coup leader in neighbouring Burkina Faso during his failed bid to seize power last year, according to a recording of a conversation in the hands of Burkina Faso judicial authorities.
The recording’s emergence comes after Burkina Faso issued an arrest warrant for Ivory Coast’s parliament speaker Guillaume Soro for alleged links to the coup, further straining relations between the two West African neighbours.
Burkina Faso authorities issued the warrant against Soro for crimes including complicity in treason last week on the basis of another recorded phone conversation.
Two Burkina Faso judicial officials vouched for the authenticity of the latest recording, obtained by Reuters on Friday. Ivorian authorities were not immediately available to comment.
Recorded at a time when loyalist troops were turning the tables against the putsch, a voice allegedly belonging to Ivory Coast military chief of staff General Soumaila Bakayoko asks coup leader General Gilbert Diendere for an update of the situation.
“The situation is a bit difficult,” Diendere responds. “Among the officers there is some hesitation. I’m not saying I’m all alone. But many are very hesitant for their future.”
Later, Bakayoko urges Diendere to go on the offensive or risk seeing the coup fail.
“They’re going to pin it all on you. You have to know that. Politically, they are going to say ‘You have the highest rank. You are the general,” Bakayoko says.
“You are constrained to take action. So carry out something good.”
Last September’s brief coup by the elite Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) temporarily derailed Burkina Faso’s transition to democratic rule after President Blaise Compaore was ousted in late 2014.
It failed after a week when loyalist regular army troops marched into the capital Ouagadougou and Diendere, Compaore’s former spy chief, was arrested.
A judicial source involved in the cases against Diendere, Soro and ex-foreign minister Djibril Bassole said the recording was included in evidence files.
A second judicial source added that authorities had obtained a total of three gigabytes of digital recordings.
Compaore was driven from power and forced to flee Burkina Faso in October 2014 after a popular uprising following his attempt to alter the constitution to extend his 27-year rule. He now lives in exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast.
The two nations, once part of the same French colony share a history of close, often fraught, economic and political ties.
Soro and his New Forces rebels controlled northern Ivory Coast for eight years following a 2002 civil war and were accused by then Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo’s allies of receiving support from Compaore. Burkina Faso denied the allegation.
General Bakayoko was the military chief of staff of the rebels.
The New Forces played a crucial role in Ivory Coast’s 2011 civil war, backing President Alassane Ouattara’s claim to leadership after Gbagbo refused to recognise his election defeat.
Burkina Faso’s RSP, a pillar of Compaore’s regime, was disarmed and disbanded following last year’s coup attempt.
But at least a dozen elite troops rejected the process and went missing. The army on Friday blamed ex-RSP members for an overnight raid on an armoury on the outskirts of Ouagadougou.
Coming less than a week after al Qaeda fighters killed 30 people in a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou popular with foreigners, the assault further exposes the security challenges facing new President Roch Marc Christian Kabore.
Additional reporting by Nadoun Coulibaly; Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Roche