Burkina Faso: US demands military hand over to civilians, UN threatens sanctions

Burkina Faso: US demands military hand over to civilians, UN threatens sanctions

Sunday, November 2, 2014 2:16 pm

Lt. Col Isaac Zida with other commanders today at Burkina Faso's military headquarters in Ouagadougou

Lt. Col Isaac Zida with other commanders today at Burkina Faso’s military headquarters in Ouagadougou

The US State Department called on the military junta in Burkina Faso to hand over power to civilian authorities amid a power vacuum left by the ouster of president Blaise Compaore.

“We call on the military to immediately transfer power to civilian authorities,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement late Saturday, adding that “the United States condemns the Burkinabe military’s attempt to impose its will on the people of Burkina Faso.”

The military named Isaac Zida,a lieutenant colonel, to lead the country’s transition on Saturday. A day earlier, Compaore was forced to resign as plans to extend his 27-year rule exploded into violent demonstrations that saw parliament set ablaze and hundreds of thousands take to the streets.

“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.

Under the constitution, the speaker of parliament should serve as transitional leader. However, Zida, the second in command of the presidential guard, said he had assumed “the responsibilities of head of the transition and of head of state” to ensure a “smooth democratic transition.”

The former French colony prepared for another day of mass protest Sunday as opposition and civil society leaders challenged moves by the military to step into power.

Opposition figures have said around 30 people were killed in violence Thursday. AFP could confirm only four deaths.

“We regret the loss of life this week in Burkina Faso and call on all parties to avoid further violence,” Psaki said.

The UN envoy for west Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, also called for a civilian transition, threatening sanctions Sunday if the military holds on to power.

Similarly, the African Union has called for a civilian-supervised transition.

“We hope there will be a transition led by a civilian and in keeping with the constitutional order,” Chambas, told a news conference. If not, the consequences are pretty clear. We want to avoid having to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso.”

Chambas was speaking on behalf of a tripartite group of mediators that included representatives of the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, after they met with 49-year-old Zida and top military brass.

They “assured us that they had well understood the message,” Chambas said.

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