France welcomes resignation of Burkina Faso president

Former colonial power signals support for ‘constitution and democratic elections’


France today welcomed the resignation of Burkina Faso’s president Blaise Compaore after days of street protests against his attempt to seek a fresh mandate, saying the move “allows a solution to be found to the crisis”.

“France recalls its support for the constitution and thus for early, democratic elections,” said Paris in a statement issued by President Francois Hollande’s office.

Mr Compaore earlier announced his resignation and called for a 90-day transition to “free and transparent” elections in the west African country, said local radio and television.

Burkina Faso’s armed forces chief Gen Honore Traore said that he had taken charge.

A heavily-armed convoy believed to be carrying the former president was seen travelling towards the southern town of Po, near the border with Ghana, said two diplomatic sources and local media.

Gen Traore said the new government would be installed after consultation with all political parties and would lead the country to an election within 12 months. He also announced a curfew from 7pm until 6am.

The move came after tens of thousands of angry protesters packed the streets of Ouagadougou to demand Mr Compaore’s departure, storming parliament and setting it on fire and ransacking state television. At least three protesters were shot dead and scores wounded when security forces opened fire on the crowd.

“Given the need to preserve the country from chaos and preserve national unity . . . the National Assembly is dissolved, the government is dissolved,” Gen Traore told a news conference.

Diplomatic pressure

Before the military’s announcement, the former president had issued a statement announcing a state of emergency to be enforced by the army and calling for talks with the opposition.

The protests were sparked by the government’s attempt to push a constitutional change through parliament to allow the 63-year-old president to seek re-election next year. Large protests also erupted in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina’s second biggest town, and Ouahigouya, in the north.

In the capital, the crowd faced off with security forces outside the presidential palace in a tense standoff that lasted several hours as opposition leaders held talks with senior military officials in an attempt to ease Mr Compaore from power.

Closely watched

Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest nations but has positioned itself as a mediator in regional crises. It is also a key ally in western operations against al Qaeda-linked groups in west Africa.

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan had earlier said that the United States was deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in Burkina Faso and called on all parties to end the violence and respect democratic norms.

France, which has a special forces base there that conducts operations across the Sahel, also appealed for restraint by all sides. Its embassy had held talks with opposition leaders today.

Mr Compaore had ruled the nation with a firm grip but faced increasing criticism in recent years, including defections by members of his party. He weathered a military and popular uprising in 2011 thanks to the support of his elite presidential guard. – (Reuters)