President Blaise Compaore has left the Burkina Faso capital amidst mutiny by his personal guard
15 Apr 2011 by Newstime Africa in Burkina Faso, 2643 Views West Africa 2643 Views
OUAGADOUGOU, April 15, 2011 (AFP) – Burkina Faso’s veteran leader Blaise Compaore quit the capital in the dead of night on Friday after his own presidential guards mutinied following mass protests on the streets. The president, in power for the last 24 years, left Ouagadougou for his hometown Ziniare, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) north, as the mutiny in the presidential guard spread to other barracks, a military source said. He said “discussions have taken place with the mutineers and they are laying down their arms,” although gunfire could be heard near some of the barracks. The mutiny began in the presidential palace grounds late Thursday after new popular protests against Compoare’s regime in the landlocked west African country.
Small and heavy arms fire, which was clearly audible outside the compound, first came from the barracks of the elite and well-paid presidential guard before spreading to other barracks and military camps, an AFP journalist reported. The guard members protesting the non-payment of promised housing subsidies took to the streets, firing into the air. The home of General Gilbert Diendiere, Compaore’s personal chief of staff, was burned down, the AFP journalist said, adding that soldiers looted many consumer goods stores in the capital. Several people including civilians were slightly injured during the sacking of an officer’s home, the military source said. On Thursday, tens of thousands of people across the country marched in protest against Compaore’s regime including in one of the biggest demonstrations seen in many years in Ouagadougou.
In late March, angry soldiers seized military equipment in several towns including the capital, firing shots in the air, looting shops and freeing soldiers who had been serving time for rape and other sex crimes. Compaore, himself a former army captain, met members of the armed forces after the incidents and said the crisis was over after the meetings. The 60-year-old leader who took power in a 1987 coup was re-elected in the first round of an election last November with more than 80 percent of the vote. He has faced a series of protests since February, staged first by students and then by soldiers. Six people, including four students and a policeman, were killed in riots in late February in the town of Koudougou, 100 kilometres west of Ouagadougou, after a student died in disputed circumstances. Thursday’s marches were organised by the National Coalition against the High Cost of Living (CCVC), an alliance of trade unions, consumer organisations, rights groups and small businesses. ”We came out in the tens of thousands today to shout out that we have had it up to here with the high cost of living,” said CCVC coordinator Tole Sagnon, who also heads up the Burkina General Confederation of Labour.
The protesters also wanted to express their anger at what he said was the regime’s “multiple crimes”, he added. Some marchers shouted slogans related to the 1998 murder of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo. Zongo’s bullet-riddled body, together with that of his brother and two colleagues, was found in their burnt-out car. Media rights campaigners have accused the regime of having covered up the true facts surrounding the killings. Marches also took place in 10 other towns across the country.
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