Burkina Faso: 2nd soldier says he's president
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: The president of Burkina Faso stepped down Friday after protesters stormed parliament and set the building ablaze, ending his 27-year reign and sparking a struggle in the military for control of the West African country.
An army general quickly announced he was filling the vacuum left by departing President Blaise Compaore, but hours later, a colonel made the same declaration.
Col. Yacouba Zida said that he would lead the transition back to democracy in a recorded address posted early Saturday on the website of a national television station.
“While we wait to define in a consensual manner, with all of the political parties and civil society organizations, the contours and composition of this peaceful democratic transition, I will henceforth assume, from today, the responsibilities of the head of this transition and the head of state,” he said.
There were signs late Friday that Zida was making a bid for power when he announced that the country's borders had been closed, a transitional committee had been set up and the constitution had been suspended.
But earlier in the day, Gen. Honore Traore, the joint chief of staff, had told a packed room of reporters that he would assume the presidency until elections were called. It was not immediately clear if Traore accepted Zida's announcement Saturday.
When he resigned, Compaore had said a vote would be held in 90 days, but Zida said the “length and makeup of the transitional body will be decided later.”
Over the course of several dramatic hours, Compaore went from looking likely to jam through parliament a bill that would let him seek a fifth term to agreeing to step down next year to abandoning office immediately.
The quick succession of events took many by surprise, since Compaore had long out-maneuvered his adversaries and has in recent years become an important regional mediator. Burkina Faso hosts French special forces and serves as an important ally of both France and the United States in the fight against Islamic militants in West Africa.
But French President Francois Hollande was quick to “salute” his decision to resign.
Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, called for democratic elections.