Thousands flood streets in Burkina Faso to press Compaore to go

Reuters. Ouagadougou/ New Age Online

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Burkina Faso on Friday to press President Blaise Compaore to step down, a day after the army dissolved parliament and announced a transitional government in the face of violent mass protests.
Compaore has ruled the landlocked West African country since he seized power in a 1987 coup but events on Thursday – when he appeared on the point of being toppled by a popular uprising – have left it unclear who is in charge.
Long a bastion of stability in the turbulent Sahel region, Burkina Faso’s crisis is being closely watched by military allies France and the United States, and by governments in the region where several long-standing rulers are approaching the end of their mandates amid rumbling of popular discontent.
Many protesters on the streets of the capital Ouagadougou said they wanted retired General Kouame Lougue, a popular former defence minister who was accused of trying to topple Blaise in 2004, to take charge on an interim basis amid frustration with the fractious political opposition.
‘We want him out of power. He is not our president,’ said Ouedrago Yakubo, amid the huge crowd that gathered at the main Place de la Nation and in front of the army headquarters.
The square, the size of a football stadium, and surrounding streets were packed with more protesters than any other day this week, according to a Reuters reporter – probably pushing the numbers into the hundreds of thousands.
People blew whistles and honked car horns but there was no sign of the confrontations with security forces that accompanied Thursday’s protests, in which at least three people were killed.
For several hours on Thursday, it seemed likely that Compaore’s 27-year rule was coming to an abrupt end as opposition leaders held talks with Lougue and military top brass, as tens of thousands of protests faced off with the presidential guard outside the palace.
In a surprise announcement late on Thursday, however, Compaore said he would stay in office at the head of a transitional government until after elections. He also scrapped an unpopular plan to amend the constitution to allow him to seek election next year.
His announcement came after the head of the armed forces, General Honore Traore, said he would hold talks with all political parties to create an interim government to take the West African country to democratic elections within a year.
Those declarations did not satisfy opposition leaders and many on the streets, who demanded his immediate departure.
‘The opposition remains firm that a prerequisite to any discussion on a transition is the unconditional departure of Blaise Compaore,’ an opposition statement said on Friday. ‘The opposition calls on the people of Burkina Faso to maintain the pressure and systematically occupy all public places.’

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