Burkina Faso gets new PM, mutiny spreads

2011-04-19 09:05
Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso's ambassador to France was named the African country's new prime minister Monday as police joined soldiers on a rampage and students staged violent protests against President Blaise Compaore's regime.

Soldiers and paramilitary police poured into the streets of the northern town of Kaya, firing shots into the air, torching the home of an army regiment chief and ransacking that of a regional officer, residents told AFP by telephone.

It was the first time police had taken part in the uprising that began in the capital Ouagadougou on Thursday. An official said they were demanding their wages and were to be paid on Monday.

Kaya was the fourth town to be affected in the landlocked state, one of the world's poorest countries, after Ouagadougou and the small centres of Po and Tenkodogo in the south.

The ambassador to France, Luc-Adolphe Tiao, was named prime minister late on Monday and will replace Tertius Zongo, who was dismissed on Friday.

Tiao, a 56-year-old journalist, former director of the state-owned daily newspaper Sidwaya and head of the Superior Communication Council, has never held a government post before.

Meanwhile, protesting youths in Koudougou in western Burkina Faso also turned to violence, burning down the premises of the ruling party and a home of ex-prime minister Zongo, witnesses said.

Truth and justice

The demonstration was initially a peaceful one by students and school pupils, residents said, but it degenerated. The home of the headmaster of the town's main school was also torched.

"We want to make the ruling power... look into our concerns" and establish "truth and justice for Justin Zongo and all victims of repression," the students said in a statement sent to AFP.

They were referring to a student who died in a February demonstration, killed by police, according to his relatives, while authorities said the boy was ill.

The latest wave of protests erupted on Thursday as mutineers ran riot in the capital, demanding better pay and housing and food benefits.

Soldiers again briefly fired off shots in a camp near Ouagadougou late on Monday.

They "have not received their pay for the month of March", said a source close to the general staff.

"They also want their bonuses to be aligned on those of the presidential guard," he said.

The payment of the March salaries began on Saturday in the capital and continued on Monday in all the garrisons around the country, a military source told AFP.

Hey demands

The housing and food benefits, one of the key demands, had also begun to be paid in all the camps, the source said.

A statement read on state television by Moussa Ag Abdoulaye, a spokesperson for the presidential guard, said late on Monday the guard's military members were loyal to Compaore.

He also called on other troops to end their protests.

"We ask our comrades in arms throughout the country to end their demonstrations because we realise how much damage they do to civilians we are supposed to protect and defend," he said surrounded by a dozen soldiers.

"We reaffirm our respect and loyalty to his Excellency Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Faso and top armed forces chief.

"Our demonstration was only meant to affirm our rights ... We appreciate the proposals made by the command. We regret the damage, looting and breach of the peace these past days," he added "apologising for the trouble caused."

He also said that several looters had been arrested and looted items including bags of rice seized.

45 admitted to hospital

Ouagadougou, which had been shut down since Thursday because of the unrest, was returning to normal on Monday, with banks and public offices opening.

But traders refused to open their stalls at the central market, though they were present. On Saturday they had violently protested against the soldiers who looted and burned their businesses during the rampage.

The violence in the capital had seen at least 45 people admitted to hospital with injuries while a number of rapes were also reported, a hospital official told AFP on Saturday.

Po and Tenkodogo were also calm on Monday after soldiers had opened fire in the streets and looted shops at the weekend, residents said.

Po, 145km from Ouagadougou and near the border with Ghana, is symbolic for Compaore, who once headed the military national centre of training and command (CNEC) there.

It was from the CNEC that as a captain Compaore and other commandos launched a military coup in 1983 against president Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo and put their friend and comrade-in-arms, Captain Thomas Sankara, in power in 1983.

But Sankara was killed in 1987 when Compaore led a coup against him and became head of state, going on to win all presidential elections from 1991 to 2010.

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

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