Burkina Faso president defies calls to step down
Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore says he will stay in power for a year under a transitional government, following a day of violent protests demanding his resignation.
He said he was withdrawing a controversial law which would enable him to seek another term in office when his current term ends in 2015.
On Thursday, protesters angered by his bid to extend his 27-year rule torched parliament and government buildings.
They want him to resign immediately.
The creation of a transitional government was announced on Thursday by army chief General Honore Traore, who said it would “be put in place in consultation with all parties”.
He also declared the dissolution of parliament.
“A return to the constitutional order is expected in no more than 12 months,” he added, but gave no further details.
In a TV address later on Thursday, Mr Compaore refused to step down but said he would hand over power once the transitional government had completed its 12-month term.
He also said he was lifting a “state of siege” he had declared earlier.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, will fly to Burkina Faso on Friday to try to ease the crisis, the UN said.
Analysis: Thomas Fessy, BBC West Africa correspondent
The president said he was ready to open a political dialogue to set the terms of a transitional government that he would lead until the next presidential election. His current term ends in November next year, so staying in power now would be legal.
But would he be legitimate?
Opposition leaders and protesters say no. They want him to step down now.
President Compaore appeared to want to calm things down but he spoke like a man who still wants to decide when he goes.
That could be the recipe for more unrest.
In a message broadcast by a local TV station after the general’s statement, Mr Compaore said he welcomed the military’s “patriotic action”.
He said he would hand over power to a democratically elected government after the transitional administration had completed its term.
He had planned to seek re-election by pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament that would have lifted the limit on presidential terms.
But the move triggered demonstrations in the capital, Ouagadougou.
These protests are the most serious yet against Mr Compaore’s rule.
At least one person was killed in the protests, says BBC Afrique’s Yacouba Ouedraogo in the capital.
The main opposition leader, Zephirin Diabre, said dozens of protesters had been killed across the country by the security forces in a “barbaric escalation of violence”.
The military fired live bullets to try to disperse protesters who had occupied parliament, our correspondent says.
Protesters also surged towards the presidential palace, and a government helicopter flying overhead fired tear gas at them, Reuters news agency reported.
Witnesses say dozens of soldiers joined the protest in Ouagadougou’s main square, including a former defence minister, Gen Kouame Lougue.
Protesters demanded his installation as president, our reporter says.
- Served under President Thomas Sankara as minister of state to the presidency
- Took power after Sankara was killed in mysterious circumstances by a group of soldiers in 1987
- First elected president in 1991 and again in 1998
- A new constitution in 2000 limited presidents to two terms in office, and limited terms to five years
- Won two further terms
- Protests at attempts to amend the term limits began a year ago, fuelled by the high cost of living
The city hall, the homes of MPs, and an upmarket hotel in Ouagadougou were also set ablaze.
Similar protests hit the south-western city of Bobo Dioulasso, and other towns in the poor West African state.
State television went off air after protesters ransacked its headquarters.
Mr Compaore first took power in a coup in 1987, and has won four disputed elections since then.
A former soldier, he has faced outbreaks of violence on several occasions, including a military mutiny in 2011.
Correspondents say he has always managed to stay in power by using a combination of conciliation and moderate force.
But the current tensions have been building for several months, and it is not clear whether he can survive this time.
Mr Compaore is a staunch ally of the US and France, which uses Burkina Faso as a base for military operations against militant Islamists in the Sahel region.
But the country is one of West Africa’s poorest, and is vulnerable to changes in world prices for cotton, the economic mainstay of many Burkinabes. BBC