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Burkina Faso Protesters Cheer After Uprising Forces End to Blaise Compaore's 27-Year Presidency

Thomas Sankara (left) and Blaise Compaore:
Thomas Sankara (left) and Blaise Compaore: Before Blaise Compaore took over Burkina Faso, the nation was led by Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara who seized power with the backing of Compaore in 1983. It was an effort to liberate the nation from corruption and French post-colonial influence. Sankara wanted to free the nation from the IMF, the World Bank and crushing foreign debt. He wanted to unite Africa, sought full equality for women, land reform, and universal education and medical care. His agenda included planting 10 million trees and halting desertification. Sankara was eventually accused of using authoritarian tactics to achieve his goals, and not surprisingly he was opposed by the nation's elite and global corporate interests. In 1987, Sankara was killed in a coup led by Blaise Compaore and backed by France. After Compaore's coup, all of Sankara's progressive programs were ended. Compaore had been in power ever since but was forced to resign on October 31, 2014 in a coup led by Lt. Col. Isaac Zida. Burkina Faso has languished as one of the poorest nation's on earth.

By Nadia Prupis
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore announced his resignation on Friday after days of protests against a plan to extend his 27-year rule.

Compaore issued a statement that he had stepped down from the presidency and urged citizens to hold an election within 90 days.

"In order to preserve the democratic gains, as well as social peace, I declare a power vacuum to allow the establishment of a transition leading to free and fair elections within a maximum of 90 days," said Compaore’s statement, read in a televised address. "For my part, I think I have fulfilled my duty."

Huge protests forced the resignation of president Blaise Compaore. (Screen capture from YouTube vdeo)
Huge protests forced the resignation of president Blaise Compaore. (Screen capture from YouTube vdeo)

Compaore’s whereabouts remain unknown, but news agencies reported that he is possibly being escorted by a military convoy to Po, a town in the country’s southern region, near the border of Ghana. He has also continued to post messages on Twitter, using the hashtag that has become symbolic of the week-long revolution, #lwili—a reference to traditional twili cloths worn by many of the protesters.

Military chief General Honore Traore said he would take over the office temporarily, "in line with constitutional measures." The military had made statements earlier in the week that indicated they were poised to remove Compaore from the presidency if he did not step down.

"I undertake a solemn engagement to proceed without delay with consultations with all parties in the country so as to start the process of returning to the constitutional order as soon as possible," Traore said.

Crowds cheered and celebrated in Place de la Nation, a central site in the country's capital, Ouagadougou, after Compaore announced his resignation.

Protests broke out this week after lawmakers said they would vote to amend the constitution to strike down presidential term limits, which would have allowed Compaore to seek reelection for his fifth term in 2015. An opposition coalition had urged Compaore to step down for months. Only one day earlier, Compaore had vowed to remain in power through the next year, after protesters broke through police barricades, storming government buildings and news stations, set fire to Parliament and forced media outlets off the air.

Compaore came to power in 1987 in a coup that saw then-President Thomas Sankara thrown out of office and assassinated.

BBC reports:

[T]he opposition continued to demand that he resign - a key leader, Zephirin Diabre, urged protesters to occupy public spaces.

After the resignation, Mr Diabre told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme: "We are all relieved by what is happening - and this is our demand for so long so we are very happy - and we need to work on the transition to take care of our country."

France acknowledged Compaore’s resignation and President François Hollande’s office said in a statement, "France recalls its support for the constitution and thus for early, democratic elections."

A European Union spokesperson said on Friday that the EU "believes that it is up to the people of Burkina Faso to decide their own future. Any solution must be the result of a broad consensus and respect the constitution." The EU also said it was "working with all actors on the ground to find a solution.... We are ready to work with the people of Burkina Faso to ensure a return to normality, including the organization of elections."

Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams.

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