Burkina Faso’s military has vowed to install a unity government after tightening its control over the west African nation, firing tear gas and shots in the air to disperse protesters denouncing an army power grab.
Troops moved into Place de la Nation in the capital Ouagadougou and took over the national television headquarters in a show of force on Sunday, despite calls by the international community and protesters for a return to civilian rule.
As international mediators brandished the threat of sanctions if the army refused to back down and allow a civilian transfer of power, the military pledged to put in place a transition government formed by “broad consensus”.
The military had stepped into the power vacuum left by president Blaise Compaore, who was forced to resign in the wake of violent street demonstrations over his 27-year-rule of the impoverished country that some have likened to the Arab Spring.
But the army said that it was acting only with the interest of the nation at heart and that “power does not interest us”.
International observers watching in alarm urged the army to return power to the civilians, with UN envoy for west Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, saying that he and African leaders had pressed the demand in a meeting with the country’s top military brass.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters, furious at plans to extend Compaore’s rule in the impoverished landlocked country, had massed on the streets of Ouagadougou on Thursday, some going on a rampage and setting the parliament and other public buildings ablaze.
Under Burkina Faso’s constitution, the speaker of parliament was supposed to step in as interim head of state following the president’s resignation.
But the army instead named Zida, the second-in-command of the presidential guard, as head of the transitional authority.