Burkina Faso: Military divided over who rules
A split has emerged within Burkina Faso’s armed forces over who is leading the country following the resignation of President Blaise Compaore after 27 years in power.
The presidential guard’s second in command, Colonel Isaac Zida, says he has assumed power as head of state.
Earlier, army chief General Honore Traore said he had taken over.
Crowds danced and cheered in the capital Ouagadougou after Mr Compaore’s resignation was announced on Friday.
It came a day after protesters angry at his attempt to amend the constitution and extend his 27-year hold on the presidency set fire to parliament and government buildings.
Speaking on Saturday, Col Zida said Gen Traore’s claim to be head of state was now “obsolete”.
“I now assume… the responsibilities of head of the transition and of head of state to assure the continuation of the state” and a “smooth democratic transition”, said Col Zida in a televised address quoted by AFP news agency.
And Reuters quoted Col Zida, in a statement read out on local radio, as saying: “I assume the functions of head of state and I call on (West African regional bloc) Ecowas and the international community to demonstrate their understanding and support the new authorities.”
Friday saw Mr Compaore issue a statement saying the presidency was now vacant, and urging elections within 90 days.
His whereabouts are now unclear.
Under Article 43 of the constitution, the president of the senate should take over after the president resigns, and elections should take place between 60 and 90 days afterwards.
However, the military announced a state of emergency and the dissolution of both houses of parliament on Thursday – effectively leaving a power vacuum.
Blaise Compaore was a young army officer when he seized power in 1987. A taciturn man, he became known as Beau Blaise – good-looking Blaise. The nickname did not necessarily suggest he was popular. Many blamed him for the death of his predecessor, the charismatic revolutionary Thomas Sankara, who was killed by soldiers in mysterious circumstances.
Controversy would be a perpetual feature of Beau Blaise’s time in power. The president was accused of stoking rebellions around West Africa. Yet over time Mr Compaore oversaw a transformation of his image, internationally at least. This inflammatory figure became a man relied upon to put out fires around the region.
Mr Compaore won a series of elections, though the opposition always complained the odds were stacked dramatically in his favour. He largely followed the economic orthodoxy prescribed by international financial institutions. But Burkina Faso did not escape the poverty trap. It remains one of the least developed countries in the world.