Army chief takes power in Burkina Faso

General Honore Traore in charge of West African nation after violent protests force President Blaise Compaore to resign.

Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Faso, has been forced to leave power after days of protests by tens of thousands of people calling for his ousting.

It appeared that the chief of the country’s armed forces took power after the president’s resignation.

Compaore announced his resignation in a statement on Friday and called for a 90-day transition to “free and transparent” elections in the West African country.

“I declare a vacancy of power with a view to allowing a transition that should finish with free and transparent elections in a maximum period of 90 days,” said the statement, read on local radio and television by presenters.

Crowds danced and cheered in the capital, Ougadougou, blowing on whistles after Compaore’s statement was broadcast. The mood cooled, however, as it became plain that military chief General Honore Traore had taken over the reins of power.

“In line with constitutional measures, and given the power vacuum … I will assume as of today my responsibilities as head of state,” Traore said in a statement.

Protesters dissatisfied

Arsene Evariste Kabore, the former editor-in-chief of Burkina Fasao’s state TV, told Al Jazeera that protesters remained in gathered in a square outside the military barracks after Traore’s announcement.

Population: 16.9 million.
Nearly half the population lives on less than $1 a day.

Landlocked state bordering Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo and Ghana.

Became independent from France in 1960. 
Economy based on agriculture. Main exports are gold and cotton.

“People are not satisfied,” he said. “They are waiing for another president.”

“The general is linked to Compaore, and they don’t want anyone linked to Compaore to lead the country. They say they will not leave the streets.”

Kabore and foreign diplomats said the deposed president had left the capital on Friday, travelling towards the southern town of Po, near the border with Ghana.

Compaore had been in power since a 1987 coup against then-President Thomas Sankara, Compaore’s longtime friend and political ally, who was shot dead.

“He has donned civilian clothes ever since but really has precided over a soft military regime,” Mark Schroeder, an Africa analyst of the geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor, told Al Jazeera.

He added that Compaore’s departure was expected to bring little change, calling his replacement by Traore a “transition of personalities, not of the regime”.

Compaore was elected four times after seizing power, though the opposition has disputed the results.

In recent years, he has fashioned himself as an elder statesman who brokered electoral disputes and hostage releases throughout West Africa.

Domestically he kept a tight leash on any opposition.

Ougadougou riots

Protesters stormed the parliament building in Ougadougou on Thursday and set part of it ablaze in a day of violence around the country aimed at stopping a parliamentary vote that would have allowed the president to seek a fifth term in office.

In a concession to the protesters, the government withdrew the bill from consideration.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow says the army is not unified behind Traore

But the move did not calm protesters, and General Honore Traore, the army’s joint chief of staff, later announced that the government and parliament had been dissolved and a new, inclusive government would be named.

At least one person was killed and several others wounded during the unrest, authorities said. Opposition figures said up to 30 people were killed.

Imad Mesdoua, a political analyst speaking to Al Jazeera from London on Friday, said the opposition was demanding civilian rule, but the army was expected to take on a central role in the country’s near future.

“There are reports of looting and unrest in other parts of the country, outside of Ouagadougou. The army will continue to play a strong role,” he said.

The EU called on Friday for the people of Burkina Faso to have the final say in who rules their country.

“The European Union believes that it is up to the people of Burkina Faso to decide their own future. Any solution must be the result of a broad consensus and respect the constitution,” a spokesman for the bloc’s diplomatic service said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies