Ouagadougou: Burkina Faso strongman Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Zida formally hands power on Friday to interim president Michel Kafando but, as prime minister, will ensure the military keeps a grip on government.
Just hours before the formal handover ceremony, the country`s deposed president Blaise Compaore arrived in Morocco from Ivory Coast, where he had been in exile since his ouster in a popular revolt last month.
Compaore, 63, arrived with five other people for a "fixed-term visit," the Moroccan foreign ministry said in a statement, without mentioning any time-frame.
Zida, 49, was appointed premier by Kafando on Wednesday, three weeks after longtime leader Compaore fled the country under pressure from mass protests.
The previous day Kafando, a 72-year-old veteran diplomat, was sworn in to oversee a year-long transition to civilian rule after the turbulent ouster of Compaore`s regime on October 31.
Seven African heads of state -- including that of Mauritania, currently presiding over the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) -- have confirmed their presence at Friday`s ceremony.
Kafando has emphasised his "humility" as a leader, aware that he will hold "power that belongs to the people" during his administration.The former UN ambassador has pledged he will not let the landlocked nation of 17 million people become a "banana republic".
While Kafando, a former foreign minister, is a civilian, Zida`s appointment as head of his government showed the military had no immediate plans to retreat from a role in running the west African nation.
"Make no mistake, it`s (Zida) who will lead the country," said a diplomat, on condition of anonymity.
Zida, then second-in-command of the presidential guard, was installed in a military power grab in the immediate aftermath of the uprising against longtime-leader Compaore.
Facing intense international pressure, an agreement was swiftly reached to transition to civilian rule.
On Wednesday, Zida urged the people of Burkina Faso and the international community "to accompany us without prejudice" on the path to a peaceful transition, insisting the government would make no "selfish calculations".
He is expected to name army officials to the key positions of defence, finance and social affairs in his new 25-member government on Saturday, said another diplomat.
They will lead a 90-seat parliament, known as the National Transitional Council, during the year-long administration.
Both Kafando and Zida are barred from standing in elections scheduled to be held in November next year under the transition deal.
Some civil society representatives said they were concerned over Zida`s appointment, but were willing to be patient until they see how he performs.
"We are worried, but that`s all," was the position given by Guy Herve Kam, spokesman for the Balai Citoyen (Citizen Broom) group, whose mobilisation of young protesters contributed to Compaore`s fall.
Some residents of the capital Ouagadougou have called the appointment a betrayal of their "revolution".
Zida`s moves while in power have included suspending local and regional councils and sacking two heads of state firms for alleged sabotage.Mass unrest erupted in late October over Compaore`s bid to change the constitution, which would have allowed him to extend his 27-year rule of the former French colony.
Kafando was chosen to head the transition after tortuous negotiations between the military, political parties and civil society groups.
The African Union had warned that the deeply poor country would face sanctions unless it chose an interim leader, and it welcomed Kafando`s appointment.
During the uprising against Compaore, protesters set the parliament building ablaze and attacked official buildings in the capital and other cities in violence not seen since a wave of army mutinies in 2011.
Compaore was 36 when he seized power in a 1987 coup in which his former friend and one of Africa`s most loved leaders, Thomas Sankara, was ousted and assassinated.
He has been re-elected president four times since 1991.
On Wednesday his party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress, said in a statement it had made a "an error of judgement" in trying to extend Compaore`s rule.
He took refuge in neighbouring Ivory Coast, where he lived in a luxury villa owned by the state.
But Campaore`s arrival there -- facilitated by the French military -- triggered anger in some quarters as he has been blamed for backing a failed 2002 coup which plunged Ivory Coast into nearly a decade of conflict.
Burkina Faso notably exports cotton and gold, but almost half the population lives on less than $1 dollar a day and many are subsistence farmers.