Burkina after the coup

2014-11-02 14:30

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Two men – an army general and a colonel – have claimed they will lead Burkina Faso to democracy after street protests ended President Blaise Compaoré’s almost 30-year reign.

Al Jazeera reported Colonel Yacouba Zida said in a recorded speech posted early yesterday on the website of a national television station that he was filling the vacuum.

Zida said in the video that while BurkinaFaso waits to “define in a consensual manner, with all of the political parties and civil society organisations, the contours and composition of this peaceful democratic transition”, he would “henceforth assume, from today [yesterday], the responsibilities of the head of this transition and the head of state”.

But, according to Al Jazeera, the announcement came just hours after General Honoré Traoré, the joint chief of staff and Compaoré loyalist, made the same declaration.

It was not immediately clear if Traoré had accepted Zida’s announcement yesterday.

When he resigned earlier this week, Compaoré said a vote would be held in 90 days, but Zida said the “length and make-up of the transitional body will be decided later”.

Compaoré was forced to step down after protesters stormed the west African country’s Parliament and set it on fire in response to the president’s move to pass a vote that would allow him to be re-elected for a fifth term. West Africa expert Philippe Hugon told Al Jazeera Compaoré’s departure would have a significant effect on the entire region.

“It’s obvious that what happened will have an echo in other countries,” said Hugon, who is with the Institute for Strategic and International Relations.

When Compaoré announced his resignation on Friday, thousands of opposition protesters gathered on a square in the capital, Ouagadougou, to celebrate.

“I declare that I’m leaving power,” Compaoré said in a statement that was read out on regional radio stations.

Donald Fayama, a shopkeeper who was among the demonstrators, told Al Jazeera: “This is a new revolution.

“At least tomorrow, we are not going to wake up with the same face of the same president.”

Compaoré (63) was headed south to the city of Po, near the border with Ghana, a French diplomatic official told the news organisation on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the situation.

The outgoing president was still in Burkina Faso on Friday afternoon, and it was unclear whether he was trying to cross ­the border, added the official.

He had not asked the French, who were once the country’s colonial rulers, for any help.

Burkina Faso hosts French special forces and serves as an important ally of France and the US in the fight against Islamic militants in west Africa.

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