, Ouagadougou, Nov 2 – Burkina Faso’s opposition and civil society leaders warned Saturday against a military takeover and called a mass rally after the army stepped into the power vacuum left by the ouster of president Blaise Compaore.
The military named a high-ranking officer, Isaac Zida, to lead the country’s transition a day after Compaore was forced to resign as his plans to extend his 27-year rule exploded into violent protests that saw parliament set ablaze.
The protests have led some observers to draw a parallel with the Arab Spring, and the developments were closely watched across a continent where several other veteran heads of state are also trying to cling to power.
Zida, who beat out a rival claim by the landlocked west African nation’s army chief to lead the transition government, vowed to work closely with civil society, without giving details on a planned transition.
But opposition and civil society leaders swiftly issued a statement warning the military against a power snatch, demanding instead a “democratic and civilian transition”.
“The victory born from this popular uprising belongs to the people, and the task of managing the transition falls by right to the people. In no case can it be confiscated by the army,” they said in a statement.
They also called a new mass rally in capital Ouagadougou on Sunday at the site now nicknamed “Revolution Square” where up to a million people had gathered earlier this week to demand Compaore’s resignation.
The civil society’s call appeared to be backed by the African Union, which urged a “civilian-led and consensual transition” through free elections in the former French colony.
– ‘Smooth democratic transition’ –
Zida, the second in command of the presidential guard, said he had assumed “the responsibilities of head of the transition and of head of state” to ensure a “smooth democratic transition”.
The transition will be carried out “together with the other components of national life,” he said, referring to the political opposition and civil leaders.
The army’s endorsement was signed by General Nabere Honore Traore, who initially said he would himself assume power, a claim Zida had dismissed as “obsolete”.
“The aspirations for democratic change” of the Burkina youth “will be neither betrayed, nor disappointed”, said Zida, 49.
Speaking on television early Saturday, the military officer also said the ousted president was “in a safe place” and his “safety and well-being are assured”.