Uncertainty in Burkina Faso after protests, attempted power grab | News | DW | 02.11.2014
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Uncertainty in Burkina Faso after protests, attempted power grab

The military in Burkina Faso has clamped down on mass demonstrations in the capital city, as tensions rise over who should lead the interim government. Protestors are demanding the army relinquish power to civilians.

Soldiers dispersed thousands of protesters in the capital city of Ouagadougou on Sunday, firing shots into the air and deploying armored vehicles.

The rally was sparked by discontent over the events following President Blaise Compaore's resignation on Friday. In the run-up to his forced departure, the army dissolved the government and then named Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida interim president the following day.

"The country was [heading toward] chaos [on Friday]. So to restore security, we needed soldiers to do that," Burkina Faso protest leader Samsklejah told DW.

"Now there is a kind of peace in the country," he added, emphasizing that the demonstrators on Sunday were seeking a dialogue "with everyone sitting around the table to find out the best way for the transition to take place."

Although Zida is to oversee a transitional government until elections can be held in three months' time, protesters in the capital said they wanted the military to return power to the people.

State TV goes off air

Meanwhile on Sunday, an opposition leader attempted to make a power grab on state television.

Opposition politician Saran Sereme had planned to declare herself president while on camera, according to eyewitnesses. However, the arrival of former defense minister and army chief Kouame Lougue reportedly interrupted Sereme's alleged plan to take power.

News agency AFP also reported that technicians had staged a walkout to purposely interrupt the transmission.

Military guards on the scene dispersed demonstrators from the state broadcaster's building.

AU, US call for civilian leadership

Both the African Union and the United States have urged Burkina Faso's leadership to yield to the will of the people.

African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma called for a " civilian-led transition that would culminate, as soon as possible, in the holding of free, fair and transparent elections."

The current leadership should "place [itself] at the disposal of the civilian authorities who should lead the transition and act in a republican spirit," the statement from Dlamini-Zuma's office read.

In a separate statement, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki called for an immediate transfer of power.

"We urge civilian leadership to be guided by the spirit of the constitution of Burkina Faso and to move immediately towards free and fair presidential elections," Psaki said.

Protests broke out in Burkina Faso last week over a proposed amendment to the constitution which would have allowed the now ex-president, Compaore, to stand in 2015 elections and likely extend his 27-year rule.

kms/ksb (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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