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Burkina Faso president will not step down

Fri, 31.10.2014 17:49



KYIV/Ukraine in Arabic/ Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore says he will stay in power for a year under a transitional government, following a day of violent protests demanding his resignation.

Earlier, demonstrators angered by his bid to extend his 27-year rule torched parliament and government buildings.

Mr. Compaore said he would hand over power once the transitional government had completed its 12-month term.

Many protesters on the streets of Ouagadougou, the capital, on Friday said they wanted retired General Kouame Lougue, a popular former defense minister who was accused of trying to topple Compaore in 2004, to take charge on an interim basis amid frustration with the fractious political opposition.

“We want him out of power. He is not our president,” said Ouedrago Yakubo, part of the huge crowd that gathered at the main Place de la Nation and in front of the army headquarters.

The square, the size of a football stadium, and surrounding streets were packed with more protesters than any other day this week.

Protesters stormed the parliament building on Thursday and set part of it ablaze in a day of violence around the country triggered by a planned parliamentary vote to change the constitution and allow Compaore to rule longer. It was scrapped as the scale of the anger became clear.

At least three protesters were shot dead and scores were wounded by security forces, emergency services said. A state of emergency was imposed for several hours but lifted late on Thursday.

Army general Honore Traore, the joint chief of staff, later announced that the government and parliament had been dissolved and a new, inclusive government would be named.

After hours of confusion about whether Compaore would hold on to power or even where he was, the president spoke briefly on television and radio to state he was still in charge and would not step down. “I am available to open discussions with all parties,” he said in a recorded address.

The transitional government will include representatives from all sides and work to hold elections within 12 months. It was unclear if the opposition would agree to join a unity government, and the unrest underscored the threat Compaore faces as frustrations mount in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Compaore was 36 when he seized power in a coup in which Thomas Sankara, his former friend and one of Africa’s most revered leaders, was ousted and assassinated. Now 63, he is a staunch ally of the US and France but was also notoriously close to Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader, and ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor, who was found guilty of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity.

Emile Pargui Pare from the opposition Movement of People for Progress said Thursday was “Burkina Faso’s black spring, like the Arab spring”.

Simon Compaore, a senior opposition figure not related to the president, told Reuters: “It is absolutely necessary for Blaise Compaore to leave power and for a transitional government to take over. Talks are taking place with general Lougue … but there is no agreement yet.”

Months of tension in the country erupted on Thursday when about 1,500 people broke through a heavy security cordon and laid siege to the parliament building in Ouagadougou despite police firing warning shots in the air.

A huge crowd converged on the main square and began marching towards Compaore’s presidential palace, where security forces reportedly fired live rounds and teargas.

theguardian.com

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