It remains unclear who controls the Burkina Faso government amid increasing unrest in the country’s capital. Rallies broke out this week over a constitutional amendment that would extend the long-time president’s power.
Following a day of increasingly violent demonstrations in Burkina Faso’s capital city, Ouagadougou, conflicting reports began to circulate through the media on Thursday evening about the country’s leadership.
Protesters are demanding the resignation of President Blaise Compaore over a controversial amendment to the constitution which would extend his 27-year grip on power. While his whereabouts remain unknown, a local radio station cited by Reuters news agency said he had declared a state of emergency.
“A state of emergency is declared across the national territory. The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today,” a presenter on Radio Omega FM read on Thursday evening, attributing the statement to the president.
The statement also purported that President Compaore would open dialogue with opposition leaders.
However, confirmed reports of a meeting between Burkina Faso’s former defense minister and both army chiefs and opposition leaders suggested that lawmakers were seeking to form a transitional government.
Opposition leaders held talks with former Defense Minister Ouame Lougue on Thursday after protesters stormed the parliament building, setting the main chamber ablaze.
The outcome of the closed-door meeting was not immediately clear.
President Compaore seized power in 1987, and his bid to keep his position has angered much of the public, including many young people, in a country where 60 percent of the population is under 25. The proposed changes would make him eligible for re-election in 2015, when he was due to stand down.
Protesters ransack government buildings
Earlier on Thursday, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Ouagadougou, the strongest public unrest against the country’s leadership in nearly three decades.
While protesters in the capital stormed the parliament building, other cities also reported pockets of unrest.
In Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second-largest city, protesters set fire to the residence of a local politician.
News agency DPA further said that the headquarters of the governing Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) was burned down in the central city of Koudougou.
Meanwhile, in the capital city, state television and radio ceased broadcasting on Thursday after coming under attack.
At least one person was killed in the violence, according to security forces.
UN to send envoy
The United Nations further announced on Thursday that it would send a special envoy to help find a peaceful solution to the political crisis, according to news agency AFP.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was “following with great concern the deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric reportedly said.
The plea for calm from the international body followed similar calls from the EU and the US issued earlier in the day.
kms/lw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)