Mutiny hits more Burkina Faso cities

16:43, April 19, 2011      

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Mutiny has hit four cities in Burkina Faso, where the government was dissolved last week amid waves of protest for months by students, soldiers, businessmen and others unhappy with the economic, political or social problems.

Mutineers opened fire in air on Sunday night and early Monday in Kaya, a town 100 km northeast of the capital Ouagadougou. They also torched the residence of a local army commander. Some of police officers were involved in the incident, witnesses said.

On Thursday and Friday, a number of soldiers fired gunshots near the presidential palace, forcing President Blaise Compaoreto flee from the capital to his home town Ziniare.

In Po and Tenkodogo, similar incidents of mutiny characterized with gunshots in air were reported in the past days to mark the potential of spread of the crisis in a West African country, which had been previously seen as one of Africa's most stable and peaceful countries for at least two decades.

Hospital sources have reported 45 people wounded by stray bullets in Ougadougou since Thursday.

Authorities attributed the gunshots to disgruntled presidential guards, who were using guns to talk over the government's failure to meet their demands for housing and food allowances.

To cool down the situation, authorities paid part of the allowances to the presidential guards on Friday, while dissolving the government.

Under a presidential decree, permanent secretaries of the ministries were put in charge of routine affairs until the formation of a new government.

On Monday, Burkina Faso's ambassador to France Luc-Adolphe Tiao was named prime minister, with his governing team expected within days.

Authorities also imposed a night curfew in Ouagadougou and replaced the army chief and the head of the presidential security brigade.

Although mutineers are taking the center stage of the ongoing crisis, protests involve other walks of life including businessmen, students, teachers and trade unions.

Since Saturday, businessmen and students went to the streets in Ouagadougou, setting ablaze the building of the National Assembly (parliament) and the site of the ruling CDP party.

The businessmen were venting anger after being looted by mutineers, while the students remain critical of the government after the death of a class 3 student in Koudougou, the West African country's third largest city on Feb. 20.

His death provoked student demonstrations against police brutality in many towns, leaving at least six people dead in clashes.

Amid months of unrest, power blackouts were frequently reported in the country's major cities, causing outcries from residents to stoke tensions.

Compaore came to power in 1987 after toppling Thomas Sankara in a coup. He won successive presidential elections between 1991 and 2010.

Under his leadership, Burkina Faso witnessed two decades of stability and considerable economic growth. But the relatively low salaries for civil servants, poor remuneration for the military, the high cost of living, high rates of poverty and the increasing political differences between the country's leaders remain a grave challenge to the government, analysts say.

Source: Xinhua
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