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Africa

Insurrection spreads in Burkina Faso

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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-04-28

A military-led insurrection against Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore grew on Thursday as police joined the fray in Ouagadougou, one week after the embattled leader formed a new government in an effort to quell unrest.

AFP - A wave of popular anger spread in Burkina Faso Thursday as police followed the army in staging a mutiny a week after President Blaise Compaore formed a new government in a bid to quell the unrest.

Policemen fired into the air in the capital Ouagadougou on Thursday after a revolt began Wednesday night in a police barracks and officers streamed into the streets, firing their weapons.

Shooting was also heard from inside the capital's main police station, which had been ringed by barricades.

Gendarmes tried in vain to take control of the building from the mutineers.

"About 40 (gendarmes) came to take weapons and control of the building. We vigorously repulsed them by blocking the entrance. There was no shooting," said one of the policemen.

Witnesses said the unprecedented police mutiny, which comes in the wake of an army revolt in recent weeks, also affected other cities, including Bobo-Dioulasso, the country's second largest.

Shooting was also heard in the eastern town of Fada N'Gourma while police were reported to have fired into the air in Dedougou in the west as well as Manga and Po in the south.

Security Minister Jerome Bougouma said the towns of Banfora in the west and Kaya in the north-east were also affected by police firing shots into the air, in an interview on state radio.

"The government condemns this attitude which does not honour the police. There are problems, certainly, and the government is willing to solve them."

Bougouma said the police had several demands over their status as well as the departure of several of their leaders.

Wednesday, new violent protests erupted in the flashpoint town of Koudougou as angry shopkeepers and students set fire to the mayor's home and to the local police headquarters.

Witnesses said that a mob set fire to buildings to protest a decision by Mayor Seydou Zagre to close some 40 shops which had failed to pay local taxes.

The protesters also set a local investment office ablaze.

Residents said that several hundred people then joined a march through the town, their ranks swelled by groups of students.

Koudougou, located 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Ouagadougou, was the birthplace of a wave of protests in the country two months ago, placing growing pressure on Compaore, who has been in power for 24 years.

The first protest in Koudougou took place on February 22 when students took to the streets, saying a school pupil said to have died of meningitis was in fact tortured and killed in police custody.

Allegations of police impunity, torture and cover-ups and the high cost of living have fueled mounting protests by all sectors of the population against Compaore's regime.

Soldiers meanwhile went on the rampage in several towns in protest at the imprisonment of several their colleagues for sex crimes and later to demand better pay and working conditions.

At least six people have been killed and many injured during the protests, while mass looting by mutinous soldiers caused extensive material damage. A curfew in Ouagadougou has been in place since mid-April.

Compaore sought to quell the turmoil by firing his government and several military chiefs, and offering bonuses to soldiers.

He also named himself defence minister and appointed a new prime minister, former ambassador to France Luc Adolphe Tiao.

The opposition has scheduled a large protest Saturday against Compaore, who has been re-elected four times in contested polls since 1991.

The country is also beset by woeful social conditions, with much of the 16 million-strong population living on barely one euro a day, while prices of basic goods continue to rise.
 

Date created : 2011-04-28

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