Burkina Faso declares state of emergency

Government and parliament dissolved after tens of thousands take to streets and parliament set ablaze, army chief says.

Burkina Faso’s president has declared a state of emergency, after tens of thousands of people took the streets, setting parliament ablaze in violence that left at least one person dead.

Army General Honore Traore, the joint chief of staff, also said that the government and parliament had been dissolved on Thursday.

Some of the protesters, who are opposed to constitutional amendments that would allow President Blaise Compaore to stay in power for another term, ransacked state television and tried to storm other state buildings.

“A state of emergency is declared across the national territory. The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today,” said a statement from the president read by a presenter on Radio Omega FM.

The president also said he would open talks with the opposition.

“I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change,” the statement said. “I’m calling on the leaders of the political opposition to put an end to the protests. I’m pledging from today to open talks with all the actors to end the crisis.” 

It is difficult to say what happens next, but things are out of control because the demonstrators do not listen to anyone.

by Ablasse Ouedraogo, opposition politician

It was not immediately clear where the president was.

Traore later announced that a curfew would be in effect from 7pm to 6am.

“The Place de la Nation where the heart of the demonstrations are taking place is full of people so they are not respecting the curfew,” Jean-Claude Meba, a journalist in Ouagadougou, told Al Jazeera.

Politicians had been due to vote on Thursday on a government plan to change the constitution to allow Compaore – who took power in a coup in 1987 – to stand for re-election again next year, when he was due to stand down.

The government, facing its worst crisis since a wave of mutinies shook the country in 2011, later announced it was calling off the vote but it was not immediately clear if this was a temporary move.

Arsene Evariste Kabore, former editor-in-chief of Burkina Faso’s state TV, RTB Television, told Al Jazeera that the streets were calmer in the evening because people were waiting for the military to make a decision.

He added that there were calls for protests on Friday morning.

‘Over for the regime!’

Hundreds of people broke through a heavy security cordon and stormed the National Assembly building in the capital Ouagadougou, ransacking offices and setting fire to cars, before attacking the national television headquarters.

Police had tried to control the crowds using tear gas, but the demonstrators were able to push through the barricades and make their way into parliament.

“It is over for the regime!” and “We do not want him again!” protesters shouted when they heard that the vote on term limits had been stopped.

Flames enveloped the main building in the parliament complex, and many politicians fled to a nearby hotel.

The crowd then headed towards the presidential palace as a government helicopter flew overhead, shooting tear gas at protesters.

Security forces fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters near the presidency in the Ouaga 2000 neighbourhood, the Reuters news agency reported.

As protests flared, the AFP news agency reported that Kouame Lougue, a retired general whom demonstrators called on to take power, met with army chiefs in the capital.

“It is difficult to say what happens next, but things are out of control because the demonstrators do not listen to anyone,” Ablasse Ouedraogo, an opposition politician said.

The ruling party headquarters in Burkina Faso’s second city of Bobo Dioulasso as well as the city hall were also torched by protesters, witnesses told the AFP.

“The president must deal with the consequences,” said Benewende Sankara, one of the leaders of the opposition which had called for the people to march on parliament over the Compaore law.

The African Union voiced “deep concern” over the violence and said it was sending a high-level delegation to the country, while the European Union urged a “constructive dialogue”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies