Category Archives: West Africa

Emergency rule declared in Burkina Faso

BBC

30 October 2014
Burkina Faso army announces emergency measures

As it happened: Burkina Faso unrest
Thomas Sankara’s legacy
Compaore: ‘What I’m doing is legal’ Watch
Burkina Faso’s military has announced emergency measures – including the formation of a transitional government – after a day of violent protests.

Demonstrators angered by President Blaise Compaore’s bid to extend his 27-year rule earlier set fire to parliament and government buildings.

Protesters in the capital, Ouagadougou, are calling for him to resign.

The emergency moves announced by army chief Gen Honore Traore did not say who would lead the interim administration.

At a press conference, he declared the imposition of an overnight curfew, as well as the dissolution of parliament.

Gen Traore announced that a “transitional body [would] be put in place in consultation with all parties”.

“A return to the constitutional order is expected in no more than 12 months,” he said.

Earlier, President Compaore issued a statement, declaring the emergency and saying that the head of the armed forces was in charge of implementing the decision.

The protests in the capital – the most serious yet against Mr Compaore’s rule – forced MPs to abandon a vote aimed at allowing the president to seek re-election in 2015.

The defence forces have been trying to disperse the protesters
The main opposition leader, Zephirin Diabre, told a local radio station the state of emergency was unacceptable.

“We are calling on the people to show that they are against it,” he was quoted as saying. “The resignation of President Blaise Compaore is the only thing that can bring peace to the country.”

At least one person has been killed in the protests, says BBC Afrique’s Yacouba Ouedraogo in the capital.

Mr Diabre said dozens of protesters had been killed across the country by the security forces.

It was a “barbaric escalation of violence”, he said.

The military fired live bullets to try and 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 reports.

The BBC’s Laeila Adjovi: “All around me there’s black smoke”
Witnesses say dozens of soldiers have joined the protest in Ouagadougou’s main square, including a former defence minister, Gen Kouame Lougue.

Protesters are demanding his installation as president, our reporter says.

‘TV off air’
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.

Blaise Compaore

President Blaise Compaore spoke to the BBC earlier this week
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

State television went off air after protesters stormed the building housing it and ransacked it.

“A state of emergency is declared across the national territory,” the president’s statement said, as quoted by Reuters.

“The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today.

“I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change. I’m calling on the leaders of the political opposition to put an end to the protests. I’m pledging from today to open talks with all the actors to end the crisis.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, will fly to Burkina Faso on Friday in an attempt to ease the crisis, the UN said in a statement.

Mr Compaore first took power in a coup in 1987, and has won four disputed elections since then.

The protests forced the government to suspend Thursday’s parliamentary vote on a constitutional amendment that would have lifted the limit on presidential terms so that Mr Compaore could run for office again in 2015.

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.

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Burkina Faso – protestors march on presidential palace

Reuters

Protesters march on Burkina presidency after burning parliament

OUAGADOUGOU Thu Oct 30, 2014

A soldier runs from anti-government protesters as they take over the parliament building in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, October 30, 2014.   REUTERS-Joe Penney
An anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister at riot police in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, October 30, 2014.  REUTERS-Joe Penney
People march against Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore's plan to change the constitution to stay in power in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, October 29, 2014.    REUTERS-Joe Penney

A soldier runs from anti-government protesters as they take over the parliament building in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, October 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Penney

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched on Burkina Faso’s presidential palace after burning the parliament building and ransacking state television offices on Thursday, forcing President Blaise Compaore to scrap a plan to extend his 27-year rule.

Emergency services said at least three protesters were shot dead and several others wounded by security forces when the crowd tried to storm the home of Compaore’s brother. Security forces also fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters near the presidency in the Ouaga 2000 neighborhood.

Black smoke swirled in the air above parliament after demonstrators lit fires inside the building before looting computers and televisions screens and wheeling away police motor-bikes, a Reuters reporter said.

Lawmakers had been due to vote on Thursday on a government plan to change the constitution to allow Compaore – who took power in a coup in 1987 – to stand for re-election next year, when he was due to stand down.

Alain Edouard Traore, communications minister, later said the government had dropped the proposal to amend a two-term limit on the presidential mandate.

But protesters told Reuters they would not stop until Compaore was forced to step aside. Burkinabe officials said there were also large-scale protests in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina’s second biggest town, and Ouahigouya, to the north.

“We did this because Blaise was trying to stay too long. We are tired of him,” said Seydou Kabre, a protester in the crowd in Ouagadougou. “We want a change. He must go!”

Most deputies had not yet arrived for the vote when protesters, who had set up barricades outside parliament from early on Thursday, stormed the building. The crowd surged forward after police fired warning shots in the air.

A Reuters reporter saw nearby structures also on fire and vehicles outside the parliament being smashed.

State television was forced off the air after the building was taken. Soldiers deployed outside state radio with an armored personnel carrier to defend it from the crowd.

Opposition leader Zephirin Diabre said on his Twitter feed he was opposed to any coup in Burkina Faso just hours after he had urged armed forces to join the people in a speech broadcast live from his headquarters.

Local radio and a diplomatic source said opposition leaders held talks with an influential army General Kouame Lougue about a possible transition. The same diplomatic source said members of Compaore’s government had been arrested at the airport trying to leave the country.

A Reuters witness said protesters took one of the dead bodies from the streets and wrapped it in the national flag, while softly singing Burkina’s anthem. They then drove it to the central Place de la Nation, where more protesters had gathered.

INCREASING OPPOSITION

Compaore has ruled the cotton and gold-producing nation with a firm grip but, in recent years, he has faced increasing criticism, including from within his own camp and the military.

“If needs be we are going to march to the presidency. We want Blaise Compaore to leave, We want change,” said George Sawadogo, a 23-year-old student.

Opposition to Compaore’s plan have been mounting in recent days.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Ouagadougou and other towns across the country on Tuesday in what the opposition said was the start of a campaign of civil disobedience over the proposed constitutional reform. The government has called for restraint.

“This seems to have moved us to a situation where Compaore will have to leave power before the end of his term next year,” said Gilles Yabi, an independent West Africa analyst. “It will depend on how the security forces react, but I can’t imagine that Blaise will be able to finish his term if there is serious violence today.”

France has called on Compaore to adhere to African Union rules preventing constitutional changes that allow leaders to stay in power. The U.S. government has said it is concerned.

“All bets are off now,” said one Western diplomat in Ouagadougou, who asked not to be identified.  Reuters

 

Burkina Faso – protestors set parliament ablaze

BBC

Protesters angry at plans to allow Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year-rule have set fire to parliament.

Correspondents say the city hall and ruling party headquarters are also in flames.

A huge crowd is surging towards the presidential palace and the main airport has been shut.

MPs have suspended a vote on changing the constitution to allow Mr Compaore to stand for re-election next year.

Five people have been killed in the protests, among the most serious against Mr Compaore’s rule, reports BBC Afrique’s Yacouba Ouedraogo from the capital.

The military had earlier fired live bullets at protesters who had stormed parliament, he says.

Map showing Burkina Faso

Dozens of soldiers have reportedly joined the protests, including a former defence minister, General Kouame Lougue.

The main opposition leader, Zephirin Diabre, has called on the military to side with “the people”.

State TV off air

Mr Compaore’s whereabouts are unknown, but he has appealed for calm via Twitter.

He first took power in a coup in 1987, and has won four disputed elections since then.

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Eyewitness Joost Laane told BBC Focus on Africa:

I am in an area where many MPs live – and I have seen two of their homes set ablaze and smoke coming out of another two or three homes. Hotel Azalai, one of the main hotels in the city, is also on fire.

Two helicopters flew over my house – the president’s and a normal helicopter. I cannot confirm whether the president was in one of them.

No-one knows what is going to happen next. It is chaotic and tense. We hear sporadic gunfire.

There is no TV anymore. So we are depending on internet access and phone calls. The 3G network and the texting system are blocked.

line

The opposition has called for a campaign of civil disobedience to demand that he steps down in elections next year.

“October 30 is Burkina Faso’s Black Spring, like the Arab Spring,” opposition activist Emile Pargui Pare told AFP news agency.

Burkina Faso's parliament on fire (30 October 2014)Demonstrators breached the security around parliament and set it on fire
A man stands in front of a burning car, near the Burkina Faso's Parliament where demonstrators set fire to parked cars - 30 October 2014, Ouagadougou, Burkina FasoCars were also set ablaze near parliament
Men shout slogans in front of burning cars, near the Burkina Faso's parliament - 30 October 2014,  Ouagadougou, Burkina FasoThe protesters do not want Mr Compaore to change the constitution to extend his rule
Burkina Faso troops try to disperse protesters in Ouagadougou on 30 October 2014 The defence forces have been trying to disperse the protesters

State television has gone off air after protesters stormed the building housing it and ransacked it, Reuters quotes a witness as saying.

About 1,500 people breached the security cordon at parliament, AFP reports.

Protesters were setting fire to documents and stealing computer equipment and cars outside the building were also set on fire, it reports.

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Blaise Compaore

President Blaise Compaore: “My concern today is not to build a future for myself – but to see how the future of this country will take shape”

  • 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 term limits in office and limited the term 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
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A massive crowd has also converged on the main square in Ouagadougou, and are marching towards the presidential palace, which is about 5km (three miles) away, our reporter says.

A government helicopter flying overhead was firing tear gas at them, Reuters reports.

There are also reports of protests in the south-western city of Bobo Dioulasso.

The government has been forced to suspend Thursday’s parliamentary vote on a constitutional amendment that would have lifted the limit on presidential terms so that Mr Compaore could run for office again in 2015.

It is not clear whether the government intends to hold the vote at a later stage, correspondents say.

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.

Both France and the European Union (EU) have called on him to scrap the proposed constitutional amendment.

The EU said it could jeopardise Burkina Faso’s stability. The US has also raised concern about the proposed amendment.

Nigeria – Boko Haram continue attacks in Adamawa with police station raid

Punch

Boko Haram members

Fighting between Nigerian troops and Boko Haram insurgents escalated in Mubi, Mararaba Mubi and Uba in Adamawa State on Wednesday.

Casualty figures could not be obtained as of 8pm but the development forced the state government to impose 24-hour curfew on the affected communities.

Our correspondents gathered that   Mubi, the second largest town in the state and host of two high institutions, was the worst hit.

A parent, Ahmad Sajoh, whose   daughter is studying at the Adamawa State University, said that as of 2pm on Wednesday, the police barracks in the Government Reservation Area was overrun by the insurgents while the prison in the town was blown open.

He added that   fighting which was ongoing at the army barracks caused confusion at the IDP camp in the Lamorde area of the town.

However, an online newspaper, SaharaReporters reported that Boko Haram insurgents took over the headquarters of the 234 battalion in the town.

Our correspondents gathered that the development made banks to move their cash to Yola, the state capital.

Sources told The PUNCH that insurgents   launched an attack on Uba   in the Michika-Madagali area of the state in response to sustained aerial bombardment of their hideouts by security forces.

Residents said they saw a large number of insurgents at Mararaba, a town about seven kilometres from Mubi.

Sajoh told one of our correspondents that his daughter called to inform him about the development in Mubi.

He said, “This morning, I got a call from my daughter who is a 200-level student. She was hysterical. I was in Abuja for a meeting, but her information forced me to head back to Yola immediately.

“I ordered her to leave the hostel and join her cousins to escape the town. I called my father who confirmed the story. By the time I arrived at Yola airport, the town had fallen to the insurgents.

“My parents are trapped while my daughter and her cousins are missing. We have lost contact for   six hours.”

Sajoh, who is the director of Press and Public Affairs to the former Governor Murtala Nyako, added, “Mallam Iliyasu of the Bursary Department of the state university, who is trapped in the town said by 2pm, the Police Barracks in the GRA was overrun by the insurgents, the prison was blown open while fighting was going on at the army barracks. The IDP camp at Lamorde area was thrown into confusion.

“The new rulers of the town had issued a decree banning   entry and exit to the town. Students who trooped to the motor park were stranded with most taking refuge in any house that could welcome them.

“The barracks are the least safe locations in the town. So far, there are no reported cases of killings or abductions. But fear and apprehension have taken over.”

Another source said that Mubi was currently deserted by residents after the incident, the second in three months.

The   higher institutions in the   town were forced to close down again.

There are fears of   humanitarian crisis should the town fall into the hands of the insurgents.

A fleeing resident, Joshua Gajere, said   several people might have been killed during the shootings that lasted for almost two hours in Uba and other villages.

He said, ‘‘We are in serious trouble as these boys (Boko Haram) have taken over our towns, splitting into groups and advancing towards Mararaba, Mubi and Vintim, the home town of the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh. They made the   Nigerian troops to retreat to Mubi’’.

Gajere added, “As I am talking to you now, residents are scampering for safety.

‘‘Mubi has now become a ghost of itself as people in their hundreds are fleeing for their lives.

‘‘Even here in Maiha, we saw military vehicles zooming off towards Yola, the state capital.’’

However, a resident from Michika, Mr. Siva Zira, told one of our correspondents that the   military was having an upper   hand as they were able to dislodge the insurgents in Michika and Uba.

Meanwhile,   Governor James Ngillari has asked the people of the state, particularly those in the affected areas to remain calm as security agents were on the top of the situation.

His Director of Press and Public Affairs,   P.P. Elisha, said   the governor met with security heads in the state to assess the situation.

He said, “It’s unfortunate with this development, His Excellency, has met with security chiefs in the state on Wednesday to assess the situation.

“People should remain calm, security agents are on the top of situation.’’

It was further gathered banks in Mubi have taken the pre-emptive steps to move out large volume of cash to the Central Bank of Nigeria in Yola.

Our correspondents could not get the Director, Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, to comment on the   hostilities as the calls to his mobile telephone line did not connect.

The government has imposed a 24-hour curfew on Mubi, Mararaba Mubi and Uba.

The Secretary to the State Government, Mr Andrew Weyle, who announced this, advised the people to stay away from the roads and other public places.

He said,“Following the escalation of violence by the insurgents, his Excellency the Governor of Adamawa State, Mr. Bala James Ngillari, has approved the imposition of 24 hours curfew on Mubi, Mararaba Mubi and Uba, with immediate effect.

“People are advised to stay off the roads and public places except those on essential services.”

It was further gathered that the insurgents   killed the son of a prominent traditional ruler in the area.

A resident, who identified himself as Kwahir Sani, said, “We fled to a village called Wuro Gude near Mubi when the violence erupted and I have lost contact with some of my children.

“As I am talking to you now, we are hearing gunshots by military in Mubi.”

It was gathered that the insurgents also attacked Askira Uba and Kukawa in Borno State for over six hours.

A fleeing resident said the terrorists killed many people, burnt many houses and carted away food stuffs.

Agence France Presse reported that the heavily armed terrorists, on arrival in Kukawa, opened fire on a police station and market, sending many fleeing.

Copyright PUNCH.

Ebola infection rate slowing in Liberia

BBC

Ebola crisis: Infections ‘slowing in Liberia’

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there has been a decline in the spread of Ebola in Liberia, the country hardest hit in the outbreak.

The WHO’s Bruce Aylward said it was confident the response to the virus was now gaining the upper hand.

But he warned against any suggestion that the crisis was over.

The WHO later said the number of cases globally had risen more than 3,000 to 13,703 since its last report, but that this was due to reporting reasons.

The number of deaths was put at 4,920, roughly the same as the last report four days ago. All but 10 of the deaths have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In other developments:

‘Pet tiger’

The latest WHO figure of 13,703 cases is a significant leap on its previous situation report on Saturday, which showed cases rising above 10,000 for the first time – to 10,141.

But Dr Aylward, the WHO’s assistant director general, said that this increase was due to data being updated with old cases, rather than new cases being reported.

Saturday’s situation report put the death toll at 4,922.

The similar death toll in the latest report was mainly a result of a revision of the Liberian statistics.

Health workers in Liberia, 28 OctHealth workers have been collecting fewer bodies in Liberia

Cases there rose from 4,655 to 6,535 but reported deaths dropped from 2,705 to 2,413.

Deaths in Guinea rose from 926 to 997 and in Sierra Leone from 1,281 to 1,500.

Liberia’s Red Cross said its teams collected 117 bodies last week, down from a high of 315 in September. Treatment centres also have empty beds available for patients.

Dr Aylward said : “It appears that the trend is real in Liberia and there may indeed be a slowing.”

“Do we feel confident that the response is now getting an upper hand on the virus? Yes, we are seeing a slowing rate of new cases, very definitely.”

Dr Aylward said there had been “a huge effort to inform the population about the disease, to change the behaviours that put them at risk”.

And he said there had been “a real step up in the work to put in place safe burials”.

But Dr Aylward said the data was still being examined and cautioned against thinking the crisis was over.

South African businessman Patrice MotsepeSouth Africa’s Patrice Motsepe is donating $1m to Guinea to help the country fight Ebola
Graph showing Ebola pledges

He said: “A slight decline in cases in a few days versus getting this thing closed out is a completely different ball game.

“It’s like saying your pet tiger is under control.”

Later, US President Barack Obama praised the progress made in Liberia, but also warned: “This is still a severe, significant outbreak… We’ve got a long way to go.”

He said again that the disease had to be tackled at its source in West Africa, adding: “If we don’t deal with the problem there, it will come here.”

Until Ebola was contained, he said, there could be more individual cases in the US.

Magnate’s gift

On Wednesday, South Africa’s first black billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, donated $1m (£620,000) to Guinea to help the country fight Ebola.

The mining magnate said he hoped it would assist with clinical management, social mobilisation and other key steps in controlling the deadly virus.

His donation was announced as the US welcomed the international aid effort.

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Ebola virus disease (EVD)

How Ebola survivors’ blood is saving lives

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • No proven vaccine or cure
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host

BBC

Africa’s Long Road Since Independence

Hurst and Company

Africa’s Long Road Since Independence

The Many Histories of a Continent

Keith Somerville

Bibliographic Details
Hardback
May 2015 • £25.00
9781849045155 • 500pp

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France says Burkina Faso must keep to African rules on political change

Reuters

PARIS

PARIS (Reuters) – Former colonial power France urged Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore on Tuesday to abide by an African Union charter stipulating that regional leaders should not try to stay in power by changing the constitition.

Tens of thousands of people marched through the capital Ouagadougou on Tuesday, calling for Compaore to abandon plans to hold a referendum on changing term limits to allow him to stay in power.

France has thousands of troops fighting al Qaeda-linked Islamists in the region and uses Burkina Faso as its main launchpad for its special forces in the Sahel-Sahara. It relies on Compaore, who has turned himself into a power broker in West Africa having been in power for 27 years.

“The African Union charter on democracy and good governance article 23…specifies clearly that constitutional revisions aiming to prevent political change are banned,” Foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told reporters.

President Francois Hollande had sent a letter to Compaore on Oct. 7 outlining this position, he said. Breaking the charter could lead to sanctions, he said.

Reuters