AFRICANGLOBE – Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore has announced his resignation, following violent protests at his attempt to extend his 27-year dictatorship.
Compaore issued a statement saying the presidency was now vacant and urging elections within 90 days.
Military chief Gen Honore Traore said he had taken over as head of state “in line with constitutional measures”.
Following the protests, Compaore said he had agreed not to seek another term, but that he would remain in power until a transitional government had completed its work in 2015.
However, the opposition continued to demand that he resign. Its leader, Zephirin Diabre, urged protesters to occupy public spaces.
There were cheers when an army spokesman told the crowd gathered in front of army headquarters on Friday that Compaore had left office.
Compaore’s statement, read on television, said: “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.”
He added: “For my part, I think I have fulfilled my duty.”
His whereabouts now remain unclear.
However, Reuters news agency reported that a heavily armed convoy believed to be carrying Compaore was travelling towards the southern town of Po.
France welcomed the resignation, saying it “allows a solution to be found to the crisis”.
Gen Traore has now said he has taken over.
In a statement, he said: “In line with constitutional measures, and given the power vacuum… I will assume as of today my responsibilities as head of state.”
He added: “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.”
Late on Thursday, he had announced the creation of the transitional government, declared the dissolution of parliament and imposed a night curfew.
Blaise Compaore was a young army officer when he seized power in 1987, a taciturn man who became known as Beau Blaise – good looking Blaise. The nickname did not necessarily suggest he was popular. Many blamed him for the death of his predecessor, the charismatic revolutionary Thomas Sankara, who was killed by soldiers in mysterious circumstances.
Controversy would be a perpetual feature of Beau Blaise’s time in power. The president was accused of stoking rebellions around West Africa. Yet over time Compaore oversaw a transformation of his image, internationally at least. This inflammatory figure became a man relied upon to put out fires around the region.
Compaore won a series of elections, though the opposition always complained the odds were stacked dramatically in his favour. He largely followed the economic orthodoxy prescribed by international financial institutions. But Burkina Faso did not escape the poverty trap. It remains one of the least developed countries in the world.