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Burkina Faso leader pledges to step aside

November 4, 2014

An influential leader claims Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida plans to return Burkina Faso to civilian control. Zida has said he is "not here to usurp power" but has given no timeframe for a transition.

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Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida (L) meets with opposition leader Zephirin Diabre 02.11.2014
Image: Reuters/J. Penney

Burkina Faso's army told an influential chief Tuesday it promises to hand back power to a civilian transitional government. The pledge comes amid intense protests and mounting international pressure to return power to the people of the West African nation in the wake of a military takeover.

Isaac Zida, who claimed power following President Blaise Compaore's resignation, pledged to return power to a civilian government in a meeting with Naba Baongo II, the influential "king" of Burkina Faso's majority Mossi ethnic group.

Baongo reportedly received Zida while sitting on his throne surrounded by both Catholic and Muslim leaders.

"Lieutentant Colonel Zida and his delegation came to say that they want to hand power over to civilians and we encourage them to move in this direction," Baongo said following the meeting. "The country must regain its peace and calm."

Lieutenant Colonel Zida has faced intense pressure over the last several days to speedily return power to civilian control. On Sunday thousands of protesters gathered in the capital of Ouagadougou to demand Zida hand back power to the people.

Proteste nach Militärputsch in Bukina Faso 02.11.2014
Civilians have demanded Zida return power to the people, but the military leader has thus far not given a timeframe for a transitionImage: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

The African Union (AU) issued an ultimatum on Monday giving the army two weeks to transfer power back to civilian authorities or risk economic sanctions.

"The African Union is convinced the change has been aginst democracy," the head of the AU's Peace and Security Council, Simeon Oyono Esono, said on Monday in Addis Ababa. If the army refuses to hand power back, "the consequences are pretty clear," said UN envoy for West Africa Mohamed Ibn Chambas. "We want to avoid having to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso."

Zida for his part has claimed that "power does not interest us," and has said the army will in fact return the government to civilian control with a "consensus" leader, though he has given no timeframe for such a transition.

"We are not here to usurp power and to sit in place and run the country but to help the country come out of this situation," Zida said.

Zida is meeting Tuesday with the head of Burkina Faso's constitutional council, who has not spoken out since the army suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament following the takeover on Friday. Under the constitution, Soungalo Ouattara, who was parliament speaker, should have been designated as the leader of a transitional government.

But the whereabouts of Ouattara, a close Compaore ally, are still unknown. Compaore, who ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years prior to his resignation after violent protests on October 31, is currently living in a government mansion in Yamoussoukro, the capital of Ivory Coast.

bw/kms (Reuters, AFP)