Friday, October 31, 2014 6:56 am
Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore on Thursday refused to give up power but called off a state of emergency imposed after a violent uprising against his 27-year rule that saw parliament set ablaze.
Opposition figures said around 30 people had been killed and 100 injured as tens of thousands took to the streets in protest against plans to allow Compaore to extend his long reign.
Hundreds stormed parliament and other public buildings including the national television headquarters in the capital Ougadougou, ransacking offices and setting fire to cars despite a heavy police and army presence.
Compaore initially called a state of emergency but appeared on television just a few hours later to say it had been called off.
“I have heard the message,” the president said.
But he refused to step down, saying instead that he was “available” for talks on “a period of transition after which power will be transferred to a democratically elected president”.
It remained unclear on Thursday night who was in charge of the country.
Earlier in the day, the army had announced it was seizing power and putting in place a transitional government.
It imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew and pledged to restore constitutional order within 12 months.
The communique, read out by an officer, was signed by the army chief of staff Nabere Honore Traore.
– Opposition says army in ‘coup’ –
A leading opposition member, Benewende Sankara, described the army’s move as a “coup”. He also said protesters would accept nothing less than the president’s immediate resignation.
Compaore “is again in the process of duping the people,” said Sankara. “We have been saying for a long time that he must hand in his resignation. His departure is non-negotiable.”
Sankara and another opposition leader gave the death toll from the violence as “around 30”. AFP was only able to confirm four deaths and six seriously injured, based partly on reports from the capital’s main hospital.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about the crisis in the west African nation and criticised Compaore’s attempts to alter the constitution to extend his rule. Former colonial power France appealed for calm and said it “deplored” the violence.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon dispatched a special envoy to help restore calm and the European Union called for an end to the violence.
Many of the tens of thousands massed on the streets of the capital called for a retired general and former defence minister, Kouame Lougue, to take control, shouting “Lougue in power!”
There were reports that army chief Traore had met with Lougue earlier in the day to discuss the crisis.