Burkina Faso leaders agree power transition plan

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Interim leader Lt Col Isaac Zida. Photo: 5 November 2014Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Lt Col Zida was previously second in command of the presidential guard

Burkina Faso's political parties have agreed that the country's political transition should last a year, followed by elections in November 2015.

But the crisis talks in the capital Ouagadougou ended without a deal on who would head a transitional government.

The military has been in charge since President Blaise Compaore was forced to quit last week amid mass protests.

The African Union (AU) on Monday gave the military two weeks to hand power to a civilian ruler or face sanctions.

Lt Col Isaac Zida - the interim leader backed by the army - has promised to hand power to a civilian. He was previously second-in-command of the presidential guard.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The parliament building in Ouagadougou was set on fire by protesters last week

Wednesday's crisis talks in Ouagadougou were also attended by civil society groups and tribal chiefs, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

The presidents of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal mediated the talks.

Analysis: Thomas Fessy, BBC West Africa correspondent

President John Mahama of Ghana, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and President Macky Sall of Senegal thought that by the end of the day, the "Country of the Upright Men" - the meaning of the country's name - would have a civilian transitional leader.

That would have been hailed as a great success at Thursday's Ecowas summit in Accra - West African leaders solving a West African problem.

The leaders gave political parties and civic groups two hours on Wednesday to submit names, hoping to speed things up. Late in the evening, they were forced to admit that "there was no use to rushing" the process, in President Sall's words.

The African Union two-week deadline now seems more realistic.

The opposition doesn't want to sit down with the ousted president's party, which has governed the country for nearly three decades. But they will need a consensual decision.

If anything, the opposition resembles a group of divided politicians who appear overwhelmed to finally be able to have a say.

The only thing they have been able to agree on so far is the need to have a civilian interim president who will lead the country to an election in November 2015.

The statement added that all parties in the negotiations wanted an "eminent civilian personality" to head the transition, without providing further details.

At one stage, the meeting descended into chaos as opposition politicians stormed out.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The streets of Ouagadougou were reported to be calm on Wednesday

"We do not want to talk with the old governing party. They represent Blaise Compaore," Rose-Marie Compaore, parliamentary leader of the main opposition group, was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

But the opposition was later persuaded to return to the negotiating table.

'Welcome to stay'

The AU sanctions could include suspension of Burkina Faso's AU membership and a travel ban on military officials. The AU's Peace and Security Council is expected to meet again later this month to discuss the crisis.

Under Burkina Faso's constitution, the head of the National Assembly should take office if the president resigns.

Burkina Faso press review:

It was not an easy day for the three West African leaders brokering the talks and would be better described as a marathon, reports the privately-owned Le Pays newspaper.

After a brief meeting with Col Zida, long and fractious negotiations began. The official news agency AIB reported that the presence of former ruling CDP party supporters caused much angst. "We had not finished crying and burying our dead when the hangman re-emerged," the agency quoted Benewende Sankara, chairman of the opposition UNIR/MS party, as saying.

Rose-Marie Compaore of the main opposition UPC party added: "We cannot negotiate with the people who pressurised [former President] Blaise Compaore into making mistakes. That is why when they set foot in the room we walked out."

But the African presidents convinced all to return. UPC leader Zephirin Diabre said this impressed all participants. "Their way of working touched us. Some thought they were here with the urgent need to leave the same evening. But this was not the case," AIB quoted him as saying.

Mr Compaore first seized power in a coup in 1987, and thereafter won four disputed elections.

The protests were triggered by his plan to amend the constitution so that he could run for office again in elections next year.

Mr Compaore was forced to flee to neighbouring Ivory Coast and is currently staying in the capital Yamoussoukro.

France - the former colonial power - has admitted helping in the evacuation of Mr Compaore.

Ivorian leader Alassane Ouattara has said Mr Compaore is welcome to stay as he helped bring peace to Ivory Coast during unrest following elections in 2010.

Correction 7 November: This story has been amended to make it clear that Col Zida has promised to hand over power, but he has not said he would comply with the two-week deadline set by the African Union.

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