Thursday, November 6, 2014 8:21 am
The crisis in Burkina Faso deepened Wednesday after the opposition stormed out of talks on a transition government at the inclusion of supporters of deposed president Blaise Compaore.
Opposition leaders and civil society groups walked out of an angry meeting with the presidents of three neighbouring west African nations who flew into Ouagadougou help broker a swift return to civilian rule.
“We haven’t even buried our dead yet and they are putting arrogant people back in office who held the people in contempt,” declared Luc Marius Ibriga, the spokesman for the civil society groups, as their representatives left the room.
The presidents of Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal are trying to broker a transition deal as Canada suspended its aid to the impoverished west African nation and other nations considered after the military named an interim leader to head the country.
But security guards had to intervene as talks between the opposition and Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, Ghana’s John Dramani Mahama and Macky Sall of Senegal broke down with emotions high over the possible involvement of Compaore loyalists in any new provisional government.
“We do not want to talk with the old governing party. They represent Blaise Compaore,” said Rose-Marie Compaore, parliamentary leader of the main opposition group, the Union for Progress and Change.
Both groups were later persuaded to return to the negotiations only for a new stand-off as members of the former ruling party in turn refused to sit down with them.
The opposition’s main leader Zephirin Diabre meanwhile objected to the west African leaders’ request for each group to submit three possible candidates for a transition government.
It is a “question of sovereignty,” said Diabre.
The negotiations had come on the eve of an emergency meeting in Accra of west African leaders, when Burkina Faso’s political crisis is to be discussed.
The army stepped in to fill the power vacuum left by Compaore, who was deposed by a violent popular uprising on Friday that some had likened to the Arab Spring after 27 years in power.
Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Zida, the interim leader appointed by Burkina Faso’s military, told unions on Tuesday that he would return the country to civilian rule within two weeks, a day after the African Union threatened sanctions if the army failed to relinquish power within that timeframe.
– Tensions high –
Tensions had been high before the arrival of the African leaders after the arrest by military police of the leader of the pro-Compaore party Assimi Kouanda on Tuesday night for calling for demonstrations in support of the former ruler.
Former prime minister Roch Marc Christian Kabore had earlier urged that a transition regime be led by a civil society figure rather than a politician or military chief.
The leader of the opposition Movement of the People for Progress said: “It’s obvious we have to find someone who has no clear political affiliations so as not to have a biased view on the transition.”
The army’s decision to take the reins in the aftermath of Compaore’s exit sparked angry protests at home and prompted threats of sanctions from abroad.
But top brass claimed that “power does not interest us” and pledged to install a unity government with a “broad consensus”.
Zida has repeated the promise in meetings with opposition and civil society leaders as well as foreign envoys.
“If everyone agrees, there is no reason that the transition (from military rule) shouldn’t be done within two weeks,” Zida said on Tuesday, according to union leader Joseph Tiendrebeogo.
Mogho Naba, the “king” of Burkina Faso’s leading Mossi tribe, told AFP he had met Zida on Tuesday.
“They came to tell us that they would hand back power to civilians,” he said. “The country should regain peace and quiet.”
The army has made similar pledges over the past couple of days, without taking concrete action.