Tuesday, November 4, 2014 8:30 pm
Burkina Faso’s army promised Tuesday to return power to a civilian government, an influential traditional chief said as the poor west African nation faced intense international pressure for a speedy transition following a military takeover.
Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida made the vow in a meeting with the Mogho Naba, the “king” of Burkina Faso’s leading Mossi tribe, the latter told AFP.
The meeting was one Zida and other military officers were holding with local leaders and envoys from abroad following the army’s power grab on Saturday after a popular uprising toppled president Blaise Compaore.
The highly respected Naba Baongo II received Zida sitting on his throne flanked by Catholic Archbishop Philippe Ouedraogo and the head of the Muslim community, Imam Sana.
“They came to tell us that they would hand back power to civilians,” he said outside his palace after the meeting. “The country should regain peace and quiet.”
The army has made similar pledges over the past couple of days, without taking concrete action so far.
After the talks, Zida climbed into a black SUV without speaking to reporters.
He was to meet later Tuesday with business and union leaders, as well as the head of the constitutional council, who has not spoken since the army suspended the constitution — under which the parliament speaker is designated as the transitional leader — and dissolved parliament on Friday.
The whereabouts of the speaker, Soungalo Ouattara, a close ally of Compaore, was unknown on Tuesday.
The army took over after a wave of violent protests against attempts to extend Compaore’s 27-year rule resulted in his resignation last Friday.
The military had promised on Monday to hand power to a “consensus” leader, as African nations gave the regime two weeks to return to civilian rule and former colonial power France called for a rapid handover.
Zida, 49, has claimed that “power does not interest us” and pledged to install a unity government with a “broad consensus”.
Opposition leaders were meanwhile meeting with mediators from the United Nations, the regional west African body ECOWAS and the African Union, which has named Togo’s former prime minister Edem Kodjo as a special envoy to the landlocked west African nation.
Opposition leader Zephirin Diabre made a cautious statement, saying: “We have to see what model is best for the situation and the context.”
The opposition has not come out against a role for the military in the transitional executive.
The ousted ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress, has for its part expressed its willingness to “work with the transitional authorities”.
France said late Monday it hoped for an announcement on the return of civilian rule “in the coming hours”.
For elections to be held, “it must be a civilian power that does it,” French President Francois Hollande said on the sidelines of a visit to Quebec.
Washington said it was still “gathering facts” on the situation but could yet withdraw its $14 million (11 million euro) annual aid package to Burkina Faso.