Burkina Faso army revolt spreads

2011-04-17 18:10
Ouagadougou - Mutinous soldiers seized a key southern town in Burkina Faso on Sunday as a revolt against the west African nation's veteran ruler Blaise Compaore spread.

Soldiers at a military garrison at Po near the Ghana border fired in the air and took over the town overnight, looting and seizing private vehicles, said residents.

Two people were injured in the firing, a hospital source said.

"The firing has intensified and the soldiers are currently in the town, some on foot and the others on motorbikes," a resident said on Sunday.

"The looting is still going on. The soldiers are taking the cars of those who venture outside in their vehicles," another said.

Po, about 140km from the capital, houses a training school for Burkinabe military officers and is a symbolic town for Compaore, who trained here.

Compaore staged a 1983 coup from Po which brought his friend and comrade in arms Thomas Sankara to power. The former army captain himself took control of the country later in a 1987 military coup and has won all elections since.

Authorities had imposed a night curfew on the capital Ouagadougou after civilians burnt government buildings.

Appease a nation

Forty-five people had been taken to hospital with injuries in the city over the past three days, some caused by bullets, and there were a number of cases of rape, a source at the main hospital said.

Soldiers earlier took to the capital's streets, firing wildly, after Compaore dissolved his government and named a new army chief late on Friday to reassert his authority and appease a nation that has been protesting sporadically for change since February.

The army mutiny started in two barracks on Thursday and spread to a third about 5km from the city centre.

They looted consumer goods and jewellery stores in the city centre and in several suburbs.

In reaction, protesting vendors at Ouagadougou's main market who claim to have fallen victim to the looting, set fire to the headquarters of the ruling party.

They also torched vehicles at the ministry of commerce and the national assembly, burnt tyres and erected barriers in several areas and ransacked another administration building.

Compaore has faced countrywide protests by young people, magistrates, soldiers and businessmen demanding change in recent weeks.

On Thursday and Friday, even his presidential guard, among the best-paid of soldiers, rose up, ending their mutiny only after receiving their promised housing allowances.

Other soldiers however continued their uprising, prompting Compaore to dissolve the government.

But the opposition said this was not enough.

"The crisis is deep and structural. One does not heal cancer with an ointment," said opposition leader Benewende Stanislas.

On Thursday, tens of thousands of people staged a protest against the high cost of living in one of the biggest demonstrations seen in many years in Ouagadougou.

Read more on:    blaise compaore  |  burkina faso  |  west africa

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