Burkina Faso: President Compaore resigns

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Parliament is set alight as protestors force the President’s resignation.

President Blaise Compaore announced his resignation on October 31st, following violent protests at his attempt to extend his 27-year rule.

Mr Compaore issued a statement saying the presidency was now vacant and urging elections within 90 days. His whereabouts remained unclear but he was said to have left the capital, to travel towards the southern town of Po, near the border with Ghana. An army spokesman broke the news to cheering demonstrators in the capital, Ouagadougou.

On October 30th, protesters angry at Mr Compaore’s attempt to amend the constitution set fire to parliament and several public buildings and occupied the state television building, knocking it off air. The protesters clashed with police who used tear gas, water cannons and, in some instances, live ammunition. At least three people were reported killed with some 60 people injured, 40 of them seriously. Opposition leaders said about 30 people died but Agence France Presse was only able to confirm four deaths and six seriously injured, based partly on reports from the capital’s main hospital. Gunfire was heard across Ouagadougou and smoke could be seen as buildings were torched. Eyewitnesses said the demonstrators were joined by some soldiers, the Pan-African News Agency, PANA, reported.

Immediately following the protests, Mr Compaore said he had agreed not to seek another term, but that he would remain in power until a transitional government had completed its work in 2015. He offered to hold talks with the opposition and also withdrew from parliament the offensive bill to amend the constitution.

However, the opposition continued to demand that he resign. Its leader, Zephirin Diabre, urged protesters to occupy public spaces.

Late on October 30th, army chief Gen Honore Traore announced the creation of the transitional government, declared the dissolution of parliament and imposed a night curfew.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was reportedly sending his top diplomat in West Africa, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, to help find a peaceful solution as he called for calm and restraint. The mission of Chambas, a former President of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Commission, would be undertaken jointly with the AU (African Union) and ECOWAS.

PANA reported that some high ranking officials of the regime, whose homes were ransacked, had been taken to the gendarmerie while some ministers had sought refuge at the residence of Mogho Naba, monarch of the country’s dominant Mossi tribe.

Army Chief to Lead

The mood of jubilation on the streets cooled when military chief Gen. Honore Traore announced that “in line with constitutional measures, and given the power vacuum” he would take over as head of state.

Arsene Evariste Kabore, the former editor-in-chief of state TV, said the people were not satisfied. “The general is linked to Compaore, and they don’t want anyone linked to Compaore to lead the country. They say they will not leave the streets.”

Imad Mesdoua, a political analyst speaking to Al Jazeera from London, said the opposition was demanding civilian rule, but the army was expected to take on a central role in the country’s near future. “There are reports of looting and unrest in other parts of the country, outside of Ouagadougou. The army will continue to play a strong role,” he said.

The European Union (EU) called for the people of Burkina Faso to have the final say in who rules their country.

“The European Union believes that it is up to the people of Burkina Faso to decide their own future. Any solution must be the result of a broad consensus and respect the constitution,” a spokesman for the bloc’s diplomatic service said.

Memories of Thomas Sankara

The Burkinabe opposition has for years protested against the dictatorial tendencies of Compaore, who has close ties with the West and has carved an image of a negotiator of political crises in several countries in the troubled sub-region.

He came to power in a coup in 1987 in which the charismatic military leader, his former friend and one of Africa’s most revered leaders, Captain Thomas Sankara, was ousted and assassinated.

Many of the protesters who have ousted Compaore, the man widely believed to be behind the murder of Sankara, have sought inspiration from the slain leader, sometimes known as Africa’s Che Guevara, Al Jazeera reported.

Sankara was a determined pan-Africanist, whose foreign policies were largely centred on anti-imperialism. His government spurned foreign aid and tried to stamp out the influence of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the country by adopting debt reduction policies and nationalising all land and mineral wealth.

Self-sufficiency and land reform policies were designed to fight famine, a nationwide literacy campaign was launched, and families were ordered to have their children vaccinated.

Famously – and eerily – just a week before his death, perhaps sensing what was to come, Sankara said: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”

Though some see Sankara as an autocrat who came to office by the power of the gun, and who ignored basic human rights in pursuit of his ideals, in recent years he has been cited as a revolutionary inspiration not only in Burkina Faso but in other countries across Africa.

 

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