Burkina Faso crisis: Opposition urges Compaore to quit

  • 31 October 2014
  • From the section Africa
Media captionPresident Compaore: "Only through a consultative dialogue will we be able to restore peace"

Burkina Faso's opposition has renewed its call for the immediate resignation of President Blaise Compaore as hundreds of protesters gather in the capital, Ouagadougou.

A statement by opposition leader Zephirin Diabre urged protesters to occupy public spaces.

Demonstrators are angry Mr Compaore has been seeking to amend the constitution to stay in power beyond next year.

He has now agreed not to seek another term but says he will remain till 2015.

Mr Compaore's decision came after protesters set fire to parliament and government buildings on Thursday.

The creation of a transitional government to serve until 2015 elections was announced by army chief Gen Honore Traore, who said it would "be put in place in consultation with all parties".

He also declared the dissolution of parliament.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon's special envoy for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, is expected in Burkina Faso to try to ease the crisis, the UN said.

Analysis: Thomas Fessy, BBC West Africa correspondent

The president said he was ready to open a political dialogue to set the terms of a transitional government that he would lead until the next presidential election. His current term ends in November next year, so staying in power now would be legal.

But would he be legitimate?

Opposition leaders and protesters say no. They want him to step down now.

President Compaore appeared to want to calm things down but he spoke like a man who still wants to decide when he goes.

That could be the recipe for more unrest.

In pictures: Political violence hits Burkino Faso

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Parliament was ransacked and set ablaze
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Cars were also set on fire
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The defence forces have been trying to disperse the protesters

'Fulfil your responsibilities'

In a statement released on Friday, main opposition leader Zephirin Diabre called on protesters to "maintain the pressure by systematically occupying public spaces".

"The opposition has said and will say again that the precondition for any discussion relating to a political transition is the departure, pure and simple and without condition, of Blaise Compaore," it said.

Opponents of the president were seen gathering in Ouagadougou's main square, Place de la Nation, and outside the army headquarters on Friday.

There were reports of a tense stand-off at the army HQ, with a huge crowd shouting: "Fulfil your responsibilities or we will do so ourselves."

Media captionAnti-government protesters looted the parliament building in the capital, Ouagadougou on Thursday

Another opponent of Mr Compaore, the rap artist Smockey who represents civil society group Le Balai Citoyen, told local radio that the people were "determined once and for all" to remove the president.

There were also reports of unrest in the second city of Bobo Dioulasso, with the courts of justice complex on fire.

The BBC's Laeila Adjovi in Ouagadougou says it is unclear whether the army or Mr Compaore is currently in control.

And with international diplomats backing the president's offer of talks and opposition leaders refusing to join in, there are fears that the confrontation could sink the country into further violence.

The president agreed to hand over to a democratically elected government only once the transitional administration had completed its 12-month term.

He repeated his position on Friday in an interview for Reuters news agency, saying he had heard the protesters and that all problems could be resolved through dialogue.

He had originally planned to seek re-election by pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament that would have lifted the limit on presidential terms.

But the move triggered Thursday's demonstrations, the most serious yet against Mr Compaore's rule.

At least one person was killed in the protests, says BBC Afrique's Yacouba Ouedraogo in the capital.

The city hall, the homes of MPs, and an upmarket hotel in Ouagadougou were also set ablaze.

Similar protests hit the south-western city of Bobo Dioulasso, and other towns in the poor West African state.

State television went off air after protesters ransacked its headquarters.

Blaise Compaore

Media captionBBC News looks back at Blaise Compaore's three decades of power
  • Former soldier and served under President Thomas Sankara as minister of state to the presidency
  • Took power after Sankara was killed in mysterious circumstances by a group of soldiers in 1987
  • First elected president in 1991 and again in 1998
  • A new constitution in 2000 limited presidents to two terms in office, and limited terms to five years
  • Won two further terms
  • Faced outbreaks of violence on several occasions, including a military mutiny in 2011
  • Protests at attempts to amend the term limits began a year ago, fuelled by the high cost of living

Correspondents say Mr Compaore has always managed to stay in power by using a combination of conciliation and moderate force.

But the current tensions have been building for several months, and it is not clear whether he can survive this time.

Mr Compaore is a staunch ally of the US and France, which uses Burkina Faso as a base for military operations against militant Islamists in the Sahel region.

But the country is one of West Africa's poorest, and is vulnerable to changes in world prices for cotton, the economic mainstay of many Burkinabes.

More on this story

Around the BBC