Burkina Faso braces for more protests

2014-10-31 14:21
Protesters pose with a police shield outside the parliament in Ouagadougou as cars and documents burn outside. (Issouf Sanogo, AFP)

Protesters pose with a police shield outside the parliament in Ouagadougou as cars and documents burn outside. (Issouf Sanogo, AFP)

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Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso was Friday bracing for new protests pressing for the resignation of President Blaise Compaore, despite the leader's announcement he had dropped plans to extend his 27-year rule, radio station Omega FM and other media reported.

Protesters said they wanted Compaore to step down immediately, after the president announced he would only hand power over to a successor elected within a year's time. Demonstrations were called in the capital Ouagadougou and in localities around the country.

The opposition said that about 30 people had been killed and 100 injured during Thursday's protests. A dpa correspondent saw three bodies on the street.

Ouagadougou has seen several days of protests. They engulfed much of the West African country on Thursday, with demonstrators storming parliament and setting it on fire. Some of the offices inside were damaged.

State of emergency

Ouagadougou was calm overnight, with protesters who had gathered on the square Place de la Revolution withdrawing, while soldiers patrolled the streets to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The army appeared to have taken power on Thursday, with army chief Honore Traore announcing a 12-month transitional period after which elections would be held.

But Compaore then appeared on television, saying he would remain in power until the elections.

He lifted a state of emergency that he had imposed earlier, but confirmed that he had cancelled plans to introduce a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to run for a fifth term in 2015.

Compaore also said the government had been dissolved and that he would hold talks with the opposition and civil society groups to form a transitional government.

Tens of thousands of people attended rallies in Ouagadougou on Thursday, with police using tear gas and live bullets against demonstrators. Hundreds of soldiers joined the demonstrators while other soldiers helped police repress the protests.

Witnesses said people were looting shops, carrying away bags of sugar and rice.

Internet services

National radio and television stations were off the air. Internet services were interrupted.

Clashes and damage to government offices were reported in several parts of the country.

Demonstrators said Compaore's long rule had allowed his family and allies to grab most economic power and that the Arab Spring movement, which had seen the removal of long-ruling autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, had now spread to sub-Saharan Africa.

Burkina Faso has experienced strong economic growth - 6.9% in 2013 - based on agriculture and gold mining.

But per capita income was only $670 last year, according to the African Development Bank.

People younger than 25 years make up 60% of the 17-million population.

"Your iniquitous power is the only one I have known since I was born 28 years ago," lawyer David Ouedraogo wrote on the website lefaso.net.

He accused Compaore of consolidating his power "in injustice, corruption and exclusion."

The 63-year-old president took power in a 1987 coup. He was re-elected four times since 1991 in elections, the transparency of which was questioned. Constitutional limits introduced in 2005 prevent Compaore from running for president in 2015.

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

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