Burkina army tightens grip as protesters denounce power grab



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14/11/02  Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso s army seized control of the capital s main squar firing tear gas and shots in the air to disperse thousands of protesters denouncing a power grab by the military. Troops moved into Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou and took over the national television headquarters, in both a show of force and defiance against calls by the international community and protesters for a return to civilian rule. The military had stepped into the power vacuum left by president Blaise Compaore, who was forced to resign in the wake of violent street demonstrations over his 27-year-rule of the west African state that some have likened to the Arab Spring. But international mediators brandished the threat of sanctions if the army refused to back down and allow a civilian transfer of power. The UN envoy for west Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told a news conference in the Burkinabe capital that he and African leaders had pressed the demand in a meeting with the country s top military brass. Burkinese troops arrive at the national television headquarters after shots were fired around the premises in Ouagadougou on November 2, 2014 If the army refuses, "the consequences are pretty clear", he said. "We want to avoid having to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso." The US State Department also called on the military to immediately transfer power to civilian authorities. Hundreds of thousands of protesters, furious at plans to extend Compaore s rule in the impoverished landlocked country, had massed on the streets of Ouagadougou on Thursday, some going on a rampage and setting the parliament and other public buildings ablaze. Under Burkina Faso s constitution, the speaker of parliament was supposed to step in as interim head of state following the president s resignation. - Zida go! - But the army instead named the second-in-command of the presidential guard, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, as head of the transitional authority. Zida, 49, said he was appointed to ensure a "smooth democratic transition" and promised to consult with the political opposition and civil leaders.

A man holds up a placard that reads in French, "Zida get out", referring to Isaac Zida, an officer named by Burkina s military to lead the country s transition, during a protest against the military in the capital Ouagadougou, on November 2, 2014

He met Sunday with opposition leaders including the bloc s main chief Zephirin Diabre, former prime minister Roch Marc Christian Kabore and ex-foreign minister Ablasse Ouedraogo.