US concerned at Burkina Faso plans to extend leader`s rule

Washington Tuesday voiced concern over plans to amend the constitution of Burkina Faso to allow its veteran president to seek reelection, a move that triggered protests in the west African nation.

Washington: Washington Tuesday voiced concern over plans to amend the constitution of Burkina Faso to allow its veteran president to seek reelection, a move that triggered protests in the west African nation.

"Constitutionally mandated term limits provide an important mechanism to hold heads of state accountable, ensure peaceful and democratic transfers of power, and give new generations the opportunity to compete for political office and elect new leaders," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The United States was "concerned by the spirit and intent behind a draft" bill which would amend the constitution to allow President Blaise Compaore -- in power for 27 years -- to run for another five-year term next year.

"We urge all involved, including Burkina Faso`s security forces, to adhere to non-violence, and to debate this issue in a peaceful and inclusive manner," Psaki added in a statement.

Demonstrators wielding iron bars and stones battled police in the capital Ouagadougou on Tuesday after a massive rally against the controversial plans. 

Compaore was only 36 when he seized power in an October 1987 coup in which his former friend and one of Africa`s most loved leaders, Thomas Sankara, was ousted and assassinated. 

He has remained in power since then, re-elected president four times since 1991 -- to two seven-year and two five-year terms.

The constitutional term limits were brought in in 2005, meaning Compaore is coming to the end of his second five-year term.

US Senator Chris Coons, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on African Affairs, said Compaore "should adhere to the existing constitutional limitation and agree to hand over power following next year`s planned election."

"The Burkinabe marching in the streets of Ouagadougou on Tuesday want their leaders to follow the rules.... It is critical that Burkina Faso`s leaders make the right choice and end this effort."
 

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