Military claims control of Burkina Faso amid unrest


Military takes to airwaves and declares it now controls West African nation, just weeks before planned elections.


The military in Burkina Faso has taken to the airwaves to declare it now controls the country, confirming that a coup has taken place - just weeks before national elections.

In the announcement aired early on Thursday on national television and radio, the statement said that the transitional government in the West African country had been dissolved.

The statement came a day after members of the elite presidential guard unit of the military arrested the transitional president and prime minister.

The communique read by Lieutenant Colonel Mamadou Bamba criticised the electoral code, which blocked members of the ex-president's party from taking part in the October 11 elections.

It is still very unclear how this crisis will now resolve itself
Cynthia Ohayon, ICG

Anyone who supported the ex-president's bid to amend the
constitution so he could seek another term is also banned from running.

Bamba on Thursday announced the beginning of a "coherent, fair and equitable process" that would lead to inclusive elections. The power grab violates the country's constitution.

Fanny Noaro, a journalist based in the capital Ouagadougou, told Al Jazeera gunfire could be heard on the streets of the city.

"There is a lot of military on the street [...] there is also no information about the transitional president and prime minister and there is no information if they are dead or alive," she said.  

A Reuters witness said that soldiers had fired warning shots to disperse a crowd gathered in Independence Square to protest against an apparent seizure of power by the presidential guard. More than 100 people had gathered in the square to demand the release of the interim government, detained by the elite military unit since Wednesday.

Burkina Faso was due to hold elections on October 11 that many hoped would strengthen democracy.

Cynthia Ohayon, West Africa analyst with International Crisis Group (ICG), described the turn of events as "unsurprising".

"It is still very unclear how this crisis will now resolve itself [...] the only outcome will come through negotiation and compromise [but] I don't see what sort of of compromise will be acceptable to both sides, considering both sides have gone all in so far," Ohayon told Al Jazeera from Paris. 

The transitional government came to power after the president for 27 years, Blaise Compaore, was toppled late last year in a public uprising.