Soldiers rampage over pay in southern Burkina Faso

The mutinies have erupted sporadically in parts of Burkina Faso for weeks.

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2011, 12:07 PM IST

Ouagadougou: Soldiers rampaged in southern Burkina Faso on Sunday, firing shots into the air, stealing vehicles and ransacking shops in continued protest over pay, witnesses said.

The mutinies have erupted sporadically in parts of the normally sleepy West African country for weeks and could pose the most serious threat yet to President Blaise Compaore`s regime, in place since 1987.

"These were young soldiers and there were at least 300 of them," said a resident of the town of Po, 140 km (87 miles) south of the capital Ouagadougou near the Ghanaian border.

"They are moving through town and they continue to fire in the air. They are taking people`s motor bikes and cars and breaking up shops," he said.

Residents said the rampage began on Saturday night and continued into Sunday, adding that some of the soldiers fired on the residence of a local commander. Hospital sources said at least two people were treated for bullet wounds. Soldiers across the country have been stepping up protests in recent weeks over pay, and members of the Presidential Guard charged with protecting Compaore fired weapons into the air late last week near the presidential palace in Ouagadougou.

Looting by the soldiers triggered a backlash on Saturday when hundreds of traders set fire to the headquarters of Burkina Faso`s ruling party, demanding their shops be secured.

Merchants also ransacked the National Assembly, the Trade Ministry and other public buildings in the capital.

Compaore imposed a curfew and sacked his government, Army chief and head of presidential security late last week over the rising tensions, while former colonial ruler France warned its citizens not to travel in the country.

Compaore, one of Africa`s longest-serving presidents, won a new five-year term in November elections, but he faces growing pressure from the military and the civilian population that analysts say have weakened his grip on power. Tens of thousands of people marched in Ouagadougou last week against the high cost of living. The country ranks 161 out of 169 countries on the UN`s Human Development Index, a composite measure of life quality.

Bureau Report