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Chaos breaks out in Burkina Faso as president attempts to stay in power

The country’s parliament has been set on fire in this most recent surge of violence.

Source: Les Observateurs France24/YouTube

ANGRY DEMONSTRATORS HAVE gone on the rampage in the landlocked African country of Burkina Faso, setting parliament ablaze in a surge of violence that forced the government to scrap a vote on controversial plans to allow President Blaise Compaore to extend his 27-year rule.

The United States and former colonial power France voiced alarm over the unrest gripping the poor west African nation and appealed for calm.

Hundreds of people broke through a heavy security cordon and stormed the National Assembly building in the capital Ouagadougou, ransacking offices and setting fire to cars, before attacking the national television headquarters and moving on the presidential palace.

The crowds were being held back by troops from the presidential guard who fired warning shots into the air.

One man was killed in the chaos that erupted just before lawmakers were due to vote on the legislation that would allow Compaore — who took power in a 1987 coup — to contest next year’s election, AFP correspondents said.

This is despite term limits being set previously.

The government, facing its worst crisis since a wave of mutinies shook the country in 2011, later announced it was calling off the vote but it was not immediately clear if this was a temporary move.

PastedImage-9265 The location of Burkina Faso Source: Wikimedia Commons

“The president must deal with the consequences,” said Benewende Sankara, one of the leaders of the opposition which had called for the people to march on parliament over the Compaore law.

The country has been tense for days over the constitutional changes.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about the crisis and criticised the attempts to alter the constitution, while France appealed for calm and said it “deplored” the violence.

The European Union had also urged the government to scrap the legislation, warning it could “jeopardise… stability, equitable development and democratic progress”.

Burkina Faso Politics Police clash with protesters on Tuesday. Source: AP/Press Association Images

 

“October 30 is Burkina Faso’s Black Spring, like the Arab Spring,” said Emile Pargui Pare, an official from the the opposition Movement of People for Progress (MPP).

Government spokesman Alain Edouard Traore issued a statement Wednesday hailing the “vitality” of Burkina Faso’s democracy despite what he termed anti-government “misbehaviour”.

Many have spent their entire lives under the leadership of one man and — with the poor former French colony stagnating at 183rd out of 186 countries on the UN human development index — many have had enough.

Compaore was only 36 when he seized power in the coup in which his former friend and one of Africa’s most loved leaders, Thomas Sankara, was ousted and assassinated.

He has remained in power since, re-elected president four times since 1991 — to two seven-year and two five-year terms.

UN Climate Summit Burkina Faso Blaise Compaore Source: AP/Press Association Images

In 2005, constitutional limits were introduced and Compaore is coming to the end of his second five-year term.

The opposition feared the planned new rules would enable Compaore to seek re-election not just once, but three more times, paving the way for up to 15 more years in power.

© – AFP 2014

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