Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Burkina Faso army boss offers talks

Burkina Faso's army chief has taken command of the country's armed forces

Burkina Faso's army chief has taken command of the country's armed forces and promised to meet soldiers to resolve issues behind the mutiny which has threatened the president's 24-year rule.

Trouble began last Thursday in the capital when members of the presidential guard began firing into the air, demanding unpaid housing allowances.

By Monday soldiers in several cities north, south, east and west of Ouagadougou joined in and students burned down the ruling party headquarters and the prime minister's house in a central city.

President Blaise Compaore tried to stem the unrest by dissolving the government - but keeping himself in power - and removing the country's security chiefs, including the army head.

General Nabere Honore Traore said during his transfer-of-power ceremony that the government will resolve the crisis through talks with soldiers.

An elite group of soldiers announced that they want their colleagues to stop protesting and apologised for the unrest.

"We invite our brothers in arms around the country to stop the protests because we now see the damage that can be caused within the civilian population, which we are well advised to protect and defend," said a member of the group, Moussa Ag Abdoulaye.

This year's uprisings started in late February when students protested over a young man's death in custody. The government said he had meningitis, but accusations he had been mistreated while in custody fuelled protests in which at least six people died and buildings were torched.

Experts said hostilities in the landlocked West African country have been simmering for a long time. Former US ambassador to the country, David Shinn, said it is likely the early protests by students were inspired by developments in Tunisia and other north African countries that have seen regime changes.

President Compaore, a former army captain, came to power in a 1987 coup in which Burkina Faso's first president, Thomas Sankara, was killed. He was re-elected in November in a vote that the opposition said was rigged.

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