Thu, Nov 06, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Burkina Faso’s army to restore civilian rule soon

UNDER PRESSURE:As African leaders met in the nation to press the army to give up power by next week, ousted leader Compaore was whisked away to an Ivorian mansion

AFP, OUAGADOUGOU

A man on Tuesday walks through Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, scene of mass protests last week that led Burkinabe president Blaise Compaore to resign.

Photo: EPA

African leaders headed to Burkina Faso yesterday to pressure the army into keeping its promise to hand power back to civilians within two weeks of former president Blaise Compaore’s resignation.

Lieutenant General Isaac Zida, the interim leader appointed by Burkina Faso’s military, told unions on Tuesday that he would return the country to civilian rule, a day after the African Union threatened sanctions if the army did not give up power.

The presidents of Ghana, Nigerian and Senegal were due to arrive in Burkina Faso yesterday to press the issue, as Canada suspended its aid to the impoverished West African country and other nations considered similar moves.

The military had filled the power vacuum left by Compaore, who was forced to resign on Friday after 27 years in power, chased out by a violent popular uprising that some likened to the Arab Spring.

Paris said it helped facilitate Compaore’s evacuation, saying it was necessary to prevent a “bloodbath” in the former French colony.

Compaore and his wife are now staying in a luxury government mansion in Yamoussoukro, the capital of Ivory Coast.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara issued a statement on Tuesday saying Compaore “can stay as long as he wishes in Ivory Coast.”

In the aftermath of Compaore’s exit, the army’s decision to take the reins of the country once again sparked angry protests at home and prompted threats of sanctions from the international community. Yet the army claims that “power does not interest us” and has 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, said he 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 days, without taking concrete action so far.

Under the constitution, which has been suspended, the parliamentary speaker was supposed to take over as transitional leader, but the whereabouts of Parliamentary Speaker Soungalo Ouattara, a close ally of Compaore, are unknown.

Meanwhile, international donors whose funding ratings agency S&P says is “instrumental” in financing the impoverished country’s domestic budget and external trade, were watching the situation in Burkina Faso with concern.

Canada, which provided about US$35.6 million in aid between 2012 and last year, raised the pressure on Tuesday by suspending development assistance to the country.

It said funding would be restored when a “legitimate and accountable civil authority has been re-established.”

Washington said it was still “gathering facts” on the situation, but could yet withdraw its US$14 million annual aid package.

Opposition leaders were meanwhile meeting with mediators from the UN, ECOWAS and the African Union, which named former Togolese prime minister Edem Kodjo as a special envoy to Burkina Faso.

The opposition is not necessarily against the military playing a role in the transition.

“We have to see what model is best for the situation and the context,” main opposition leader Zephirin Diabre said.

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