Burkina Faso’s Military Cracks Down on Protests

Burkina Faso’s Military Cracks Down on Protests

Soldiers in Burkina Faso drove away thousands of protesters on Sunday as opposition emerged to the military regime that took power two days earlier, when the president of nearly three decades resigned and fled.

The crowd had gathered in the capital city of Ouagadougou demanding the departure of Lt. Col. Isaac Zida the morning after the army named him head of state. Soldiers arrived in armored vehicles, firing in the air and clearing the city center, according to local private radio station Omega FM.

Gunfire was heard when former lawmaker Saran Sérémé marched to the state broadcaster’s office earlier in the day to declare herself the head of a transitional government. Tanks arrived and the broadcaster’s signal briefly dropped, Omega FM reported.

Ms. Sérémé is one of several politicians who have come forward to propose themselves as president.

Sunday’s events marked the latest twist in a chaotic few days for a nation that had been governed for 27 years by a single man, President Blaise Compaoré. In its upheaval, the landlocked country on the Sahara’s edge has offered a telling scenario for other African countries where aging leaders are pushing into their second or third decade in power.

The average age in Africa is around 19, and yet many of the continent’s leaders are in their 70s or 80s; Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is 90 and has run his country since its independence in 1980. And while Africa’s economies are collectively outperforming many other parts of the world, its young people are moving to cities to find few jobs, crowded universities and congested shantytowns.

Still, scattered protests have rarely posed a threat to the continent’s entrenched leaders. Opposition figures in countries such as Cameroon or Angola are often as unpopular as those governing the country. Many of them live abroad.

But on Friday, tens of thousands of protesters in Burkina Faso altered that status quo, forcing Mr. Compaoré to resign. Marchers set fire to the government’s most important buildings to stop the 63-year-old leader from amending the constitution to seek a fifth term. That rage subsided after Mr. Compaoré stepped down, residents said, with most demonstrators either cheering or acquiescing to the new regime. On Saturday, many came outside to sweep the trash-strewn streets.

The popular revolt may have inspired others across borders: On Sunday, an opposition party in neighboring Togo called for protests to dislodge President Faure Gnassingbe—who assumed the presidency in 2005, upon the death of his father, the country’s uninterrupted leader since 1967.

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