ECOWAS presses Burkina Faso on civilian rule

Regional bloc calls on military to hand over power to interim government for guiding country to elections next year.

The presidents of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal have urged Burkina Faso to appoint a transitional government to guide the country to elections next year following the overthrow of longtime ruler Blaise Compaore last week.

On Wednesday, Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama led the delegation from the West African bloc ECOWAS to help Burkina Faso plot a path to a civilian-led transition after the military named a senior army officer as head of state on Saturday.

Mahama, the current ECOWAS chairman, held talks with Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, opposition politicians, Compaore’s supporters, religious leaders and civil society groups. There was a general consensus in favour of a civilian-led interim government, he said.

“There were going to be elections next year. We believe that we should just work with that election date, which is next November,” he said. “This means there will be a transitional government for one year and a new president will be elected.”

Mahama said that Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and Senegalese leader Macky Sall, part of the ECOWAS delegation, agreed with the timetable.

Delegates from the meetings with Mahama said that all the separate groups had been asked to select three candidates for the interim presidency.

Mahama said the presidents had recommended that members of the interim authority should not be permitted to stand in the elections next year.

Advance warning

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets last Thursday when Compaore tried to force through parliament a constitutional reform to allow him to seek re-election next year.

He resigned the next day as the sometimes violent protests continued and was forced to flee to neighbouring Ivory Coast with the help of France.

Mahama said regional leaders had attempted to talk Compaore out of the plan to change the national charter to extend his 27-year rule.

“When our colleague decided to do what he wanted to do, I can assure you that several of us spoke with him and advised that it was not a proper thing to do,” he said.

The military stepped in following Compaore’s departure, dissolving the National Assembly and imposing a curfew. It then appointed Zida, deputy commander of the presidential guard, as provisional head of state on Saturday. He announced the suspension of Burkina Faso’s 1991 constitution.

Amid mounting international pressure for a civilian to take the reins of the transition, Zida promised on Monday to quickly cede power to a transitional government.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies