Skip to content

Burkina Faso’s Army Warns Opposition Amid Power Dispute

Updated on

Burkina Faso’s Army Warns Opposition Amid Power Dispute

Burkina Faso’s military said it won’t tolerate acts against an army-led transition government after the ouster of longtime president Blaise Compaore.

The opposition, which has refused to recognize the president named by army leaders, acted irresponsibly when it read a statement outside the offices of state TV, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida said in a statement read to reporters following a meeting with opposition leaders.

“Any act likely to undermine the transition process will be suppressed with vigor,” said Zida, who was chosen by the military to succeed Compaore.

Opposition supporters who led four days of protests to end Compaore’s 27-year rule last week scheduled a march for today to demand the military continue talks and allow them to name a leader.

Soldiers broke up a demonstration in the capital’s main square yesterday, and fired warning shots to disperse protesters who gathered at the headquarters of the national TV station. One person was killed.

The demonstrators had called for Saran Sereme, leader of the opposition Party for Democracy and Change, to become the country’s next president.

“We’ve no argument with the military -- they are our brothers -- but their place is in their barracks,” Sereme told the demonstrators.

African Response

A joint United Nations, African Union and Economic Community of West African States mission to the country said it would seek to avoid imposing AU and ECOWAS sanctions for the breach to the country’s constitution.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for West Africa, said the mission had communicated with the military leadership, and urged a speedy return to constitutional rule.

Zida told reporters that he has met with opposition leaders, the U.S. ambassador to the country and Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo, who was president of the country between 1982 and 1983 before being overthrown in a coup.

Thousands of people had staged a peaceful protest in the center of Ouagadougou yesterday against the military takeover, demanding a say in who runs the country now that Compaore has gone.

Street Protests

The resignation of Compaore was the culmination of an explosion of street protests over his plan for parliament to pass a law to allow him another term ruling the country.

Compaore, 63, a former army officer, seized power in a 1987 coup that killed head of state Thomas Sankara. Compaore had helped install the Marxist in an earlier putsch.

He won an election in 1991 that was boycotted by the opposition, and re-elected three times in ballots that gave him about 80 percent of the vote.

Compaore, who showed little tolerance for dissent, was accused of involvement in civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He was an ally of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was handed to an international court in 2006 and later convicted of aiding war crimes in Sierra Leone.

Burkina Faso, a nation of 17 million people, ranks 181st out of 187 nations on the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, literacy, education and gross domestic product per capita. Per capita income in 2012 was about $650, according to the UN.

Burkina Faso’s economy depends heavily on remittances from an estimated 4 million migrant workers in neighboring Ivory Coast, according to the World Bank. Agriculture employs about 85 percent of the population, with cotton as the main cash crop.