AFRICANGLOBE – In a burst of pent-up anger, a youth-led movement overpowered the unpopular regime of Blaise Compaore of the West African nation of Burkina Faso, dashing hopes by the “President for Life” to extend his 27 year rule by another term and forcing his resignation.
Hundreds of thousands of protestors, many from Le Balai Citoyen (the Citizen’s Broom), a grassroots movement, filled the streets as news of an attempted power grab by Compaore, a close ally of Washington and France, filtered out over the weekend.
Compaore was believed to be engineering an amendment to the constitution so that he could run for elections again next year.
The demonstrators included hundreds of women carrying broomsticks, spatulas, and pestles. “We came out with our spatulas to give a warning to a man hell-bent on destroying our country,” said Juliette Congo of the Movement of People for Progress.
Actions by some protestors, including setting fire to the parliament building and the looting of Compaore’s brother’s home, prompted troops to move into the Place de la Nation in the capital Ouagadougou and take over the national television headquarters in a show of force.
They announced that a transition government would be formed by “broad consensus”. In the meantime, they named Lt Col Isaac Zida, previously second in command of the presidential guard, as the new interim boss.
African Union official Simeon Oyono Esono, called the military takeover “a blow against democracy”. The AU has given a two-week deadline to return power to a civilian transitional government.
The symbolism of the broom dates back to the administration of former president Thomas Sankara who initiated regular street-cleaning exercises in which citizens would pick up brooms and clean their neighborhoods.
The powerful metaphor for self-sufficiency was the inspiration for Le Balai Citoyen.
Mr Compaore, who was helped by France to escape to Ivory Coast, first seized power in a coup in 1987, and thereafter won four disputed elections.
Zida’s appointment marks the seventh time that a military officer had taken over as head of state in Burkina Faso since it won independence from France in 1960.
Meanwhile, Washington declined to cut military ties to the country saying it was not ready to determine whether the takeover by the army amounted to a coup.
Thomas Sankara The Upright Man