, OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, Oct 31 – Burkina Faso’s embattled President Blaise Compaore announced on Friday that he was stepping down to make way for elections following a violent uprising against his 27-year rule that saw parliament set ablaze.
His resignation came as tens of thousands of protesters demanded that he quit immediately after a day of unrest that saw mass protests and the storming of parliament and other public buildings.
Some have drawn a parallel between the protests and the Arab Spring revolution, and the situation is being closely watched across Africa where at least four heads of state are preparing or considering similar changes to stay in power.
“In order to preserve the democratic gains, as well as social peace… I declare a power vacuum to allow the establishment of a transition leading to free and fair elections within a maximum of 90 days,” Compaore said in a statement read on local television.
News of Compaore’s departure had initially come from an army officer hoisted on the shoulders of comrades in front of the army headquarters in Ouagadougou, the capital of the landlocked west African nation. READ: Army official announces ouster of Burkina Faso president.
“Compaore is no longer in power,” Colonel Boureima Farta told a crowd of thousands, who erupted into cheers.
Compaore had initially rejected calls to resign, prompting the demonstrators to gather outside the military base, chanting: “Blaise, get out!”.
France’s President Francois Hollande vowed that Paris would “contribute to calming” the situation in its former colony as the news emerged, adding that he was sure Compaore would “take the right decision in the coming hours to achieve the calm necessary”.
The EU called for the people of Burkina Faso to have the final say in who rules their country.
“The European Union believes that it is up to the people of Burkina Faso to decide their own future. Any solution must be the result of a broad consensus and respect the constitution,” a spokesman for the bloc’s diplomatic service said.
The protests on Thursday forced Compaore to withdraw plans to try to change the constitution to extend his rule, although he had then vowed to stay in power for another year under a transitional government.