Burkina Faso leader dissolves government amid mutiny

Blaise Compaore was re-elected in November with more than 80 percent of vote.

Updated: Apr 16, 2011, 10:40 AM IST

Ouagadougou: Mutinous soldiers took to the streets of the Burkina Faso capital in a second night of protests even as President Blaise Compaore dissolved his government and named a new Army chief.

Seeking to reassert his authority after a mutiny by his personal guard and mass streets protests on Thursday and Friday, Compaore announced that "the secretaries-general of the ministries will be in charge of current affairs" until a new cabinet of ministers is appointed on a date he did not specify.

The President, 60, also named Colonel-Major Honore Nabere Traore as Army Chief to replace General Dominique Djindjere.

Overnight Friday soldiers from two Ouagadougou barracks fired shots in the air and shouted war cries as they marched or sped through the streets after 10:00 pm (2200 GMT).

The reason for the latest protests by troops stationed according to witnesses at the Guillaume Ouedraogo camp in the city centre and the Sangoule Lamizana camp in the Gounghin district in the west was not immediately clear.

No incidents were reported from the presidential guard from where the protests had spread late Thursday.

Mutiny broke out in two barracks, including one in the compound of Compaore`s residence in Ouagadougou, and spread on Friday to three other Army bases in the capital, mutineers and Army officers said.

In power since a 1987 military coup, Compaore slipped out of Ouagadougou on Thursday night to spend a few hours in his home town, Ziniare, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the capital, but returned later, a source at his residence said.

Before leaving, the president said "discussions have taken place with the mutineers and they are laying down their arms".

Soldiers looted consumer goods` stores in the city centre and several people, including civilians, were lightly injured. They also ransacked a private radio station, Savane FM, putting it off the air and roughing up staff, management said.

"We`re shut into our home. Nobody dares poke their nose outside. I can`t even hear a motorcycle going by," said one woman resident, reached by phone.

Most shops, banks, offices and service stations were closed in Ouagadougou, where traffic was thin, apart from soldiers riding around in jeeps and confiscated civilian vehicles, mainly pick-ups.

"We`re claiming a lot of things," including bonuses, one soldier said, asking not to be named. "We`re angry with our commanders. We don`t want to work for them to get rich."

Yet an Army officer said that the soldiers had been paid the housing and food allowances they demanded.

Norway`s International Cooperation Minister Erik Solheim, meanwhile, met Compaore who stressed that he wished to "engage in dialogue" to bring an end to the chaos.

"The President told us that he will do everything possible to engage in dialogue with all sections of society, which will allow for the reinforcement of stability which is an important factor for economic development," the minister said after the meeting in Ouagadougou on Friday.

On Thursday, tens of thousands of people marched in protest against the high cost of living in one of the biggest demonstrations seen in many years in Ouagadougou.

Marches also took place in 10 other towns across the landlocked African country.

Compaore, himself a former Army captain, was re-elected in November with more than 80 percent of the vote, having won all elections since 1991.

Bureau Report