Burkina Faso curfew amid mutiny

2011-04-16 21:35
Ouagadougou - Authorities in Burkina Faso imposed a curfew on the capital city on Saturday after soldiers mutinied for a third day and civilians burnt government buildings amid rising anger against President Blaise Compaore.

Forty-five people were taken to hospital with injuries, some caused by bullets, and there were a number of cases of rape, a source at the main hospital in Ouagadougou told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Soldiers earlier took to the streets of Ouagadougou, firing wildly, shortly after the president dissolved his government and named a new army chief Friday night in a bid to reassert his authority and appease a nation that has been protesting sporadically for change since February.

"The secretary general of the ministry of security informs the population of Ouagadougou that it has imposed a curfew across the city from 19:00 (19:00 GMT) to 06:00 as from this Saturday," a statement said.

By Saturday afternoon calm had returned to the streets of the capital, patrolled by soldiers and police, who set up barriers on the streets leading to the buildings of key ministries in the city centre, an AFP correspondent on the scene reported.

Looting

Overnight shots could be heard in several areas of the city until 04:00 (04:00 GMT) as the army mutiny, which started on Thursday in two barracks in the capital, spread to a third barracks about five kilometres (three miles) from the city centre.

Witnesses said the mutineers 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 Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) in the capital's business district.

They set alight stationary vehicles at the Ministry of Commerce and the National Assembly after destroying a control post at the city council entrance.

The group also burnt tyres and erected barriers in several areas around the capital before they were dispersed by soldiers firing shots into the air.

'We want peace'

"It is the president (Blaise Compaore) who is solely responsible for our tribulations. He trained his guards (the soldiers) and they pillage us," mobile phone vendor Oumarou Belem told AFP, urging Compaore to "leave power to those who can manage" the impoverished West African nation.

"We want peace now," said the businessman.

A colleague, Mamadi Zoundi, added: We don't want Blaise anymore. If he cannot control his soldiers, he must leave."

The protesting vendors also attacked an administration building, where they wrecked several offices and held the building's sole occupant hostage, an AFP journalist reported.

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

Uprising

On Thursday and on 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 on Friday to dissolve the government of Prime Minister Tertius Zongo and to name Colonel-Major Honore Nabere Traore as army chief to replace General Dominique Djindjere.

But the opposition said this was not enough.

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

"The head of state should have the courage to address his people to tell them that this is his last term in office (scheduled to end in 2015). He must also engage in real political and institutional reforms."

Protest

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.

The French foreign ministry urged its citizens to postpone non-essential travel to Burkina Faso, warning of "live tensions".

Compaore, himself a former army captain, was re-elected in November with more than 80% of the vote, having won all elections since 1991 after coming to power in a 1987 military coup.

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