The government of Burkina Faso collapsed on Thursday as demonstrators protesting President Blaise Compaoré’s plans to stay in office after 27 years surged through the streets of Ouagadougou, the capital, overrunning state broadcasters, setting fire to Parliament and burning the homes of the president’s relatives.
Authorities imposed martial law, according to a communiqué from the presidential palace.
After several hours of increasingly violent protests, a government spokesman announced that a bill to extend the term of Mr. Compaoré had been dropped, or at least delayed. Yet the protests continued, and later in the day, Mr. Compaoré announced that the government had been dissolved and promised more talks with the opposition “to end the crisis,” according to a statement read on a local radio station.
Still later, according to The Associated Press, he spoke briefly on television and vowed to remain in office.
If the protests do unseat Mr. Compaoré, it will be the first time since the Arab Spring that a popular movement has succeeded in removing an autocrat in sub-Saharan Africa. When the wave of Arab Spring protests first swept northern Africa, analysts predicted they would spread south, where some of the world’s most entrenched leaders continue to cling to power.
“In 1987, when Blaise Compaoré took office I was 17 years old,” said Hamidou Traore, a student in computer studies, who was one of around two dozen citizens of Burkina Faso protesting outside the country’s consulate in New York on Thursday. “I am now a father myself, and all this time, he has stayed in power. In fact my oldest daughter is now about to give birth to her own child — so we have had the same president for almost three generations. In these 27 years, you could have had as many as seven presidents in America. Why should we continue to accept this?”
Gen. Honoré Nabéré Traoré, the chief of staff of Burkina Faso’s armed forces, said at a news conference Thursday night that a transitional authority would lead the country to new elections within 12 months. He did not say who would form the interim government. He also announced that a dusk-to-dawn curfew would take effect.
The government sealed the country’s borders — part of the security protocol in West African countries during times of turmoil, according to officials at the country’s diplomatic mission in New York, where a reporter’s visa was denied Thursday on the grounds that the international airport was closed.