Photo credit: bbc news

Burkina Faso army announces emergency measures

by / Comments Off / 73 View / 30th October 2014

Burkina Faso’s military has announced emergency measures – including the formation of a transitional government – after a day of violent protests on 30 October.

Demonstrators angered by President Blaise Compaore’s bid to extend his 27-year rule earlier set fire to parliament and government buildings. Protesters in the capital, Ouagadougou, are calling for him to resign.

The emergency moves announced by army chief Gen Honore Traore did not say who would lead the interim administration. At a press conference, he declared the imposition of an overnight curfew, as well as the dissolution of parliament.

Gen Traore announced that a “transitional body [would] be put in place in consultation with all parties”. “A return to the constitutional order is expected in no more than 12 months,” he said.

President Compaore later said he would hand over power at the end of the transitional government. He earlier issued a statement, declaring the emergency and saying that the head of the armed forces was in charge of implementing the decision.

The protests in the capital – the most serious yet against Mr Compaore’s rule – forced MPs to abandon a vote aimed at allowing the president to seek re-election in 2015.

BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy says the people of Burkina Faso are still waiting to hear who will lead their country. As confusion prevails, he says, the violence may spread.

The main opposition leader, Zephirin Diabre, told a local radio station the state of emergency was unacceptable. “We are calling on the people to show that they are against it,” he was quoted as saying. “The resignation of President Blaise Compaore is the only thing that can bring peace to the country.”

At least one person has been killed in the protests, says BBC Afrique’s Yacouba Ouedraogo in the capital.

Mr Diabre said dozens of protesters had been killed across the country by the security forces in a “barbaric escalation of violence”.

The military fired live bullets to try to disperse protesters who had occupied parliament, our correspondent says. Protesters also surged towards the presidential palace, and a government helicopter flying overhead fired tear gas at them, Reuters news agency reported.

Witnesses say dozens of soldiers joined the protest in Ouagadougou’s main square, including a former defence minister, Gen Kouame Lougue. Protesters demanded his installation as president, our reporter says.

The city hall, the homes of MPs, and an upmarket hotel in Ouagadougou were also set ablaze.  Similar protests hit the south-western city of Bobo Dioulasso, and other towns in the poor West African state.  State television went off air after protesters stormed the building housing it and ransacked it.

A statement by the president announced the dissolution of the government “so as to create the conditions for change”.  It called upon opposition leaders to put a stop to protests and pledged talks to end the crisis.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, will fly to Burkina Faso on Friday to try to ease the crisis, the UN said.

Mr Compaore first took power in a coup in 1987, and has won four disputed elections since then.  The protests forced the government to suspend Thursday’s parliamentary vote on a constitutional amendment that would have lifted the limit on presidential terms so that Mr Compaore could run for office again in 2015.

Mr Compaore is a staunch ally of the US and France, which uses Burkina Faso as a base for military operations against militant Islamists in the Sahel region.

Credit:  BBC news

Photo credit: BBC News;  Defence forces try to disperse protestors