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Transition timetable set for Burkina Faso after crisis

Issouf Sanogo, AFP | A man holds up a placard that reads in French, "Zida get out", referring to Isaac Zida.

Burkina Faso's army and leaders agreed Wednesday to a one-year political transition with elections in November 2015. However, the talks - mediated by three African presidents – crucially failed to name a new leader for the transitional government

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Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama, Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan, and Senegal's President Macky Sall had travelled to Burkina Faso to press for the swift return of civilian rule, after the military appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Zida to run the country following last week's ouster of president Blaise Compaore.

In scenes compared to the Arab Spring, Compaore was forced to flee the country after tens of thousands took to the streets and set parliament ablaze in violent protests against efforts to extend his 27-year rule. 

Ghana's Mahama led the delegation from the West African bloc ECOWAS to help tackle the political crisis.

Mahama, the current ECOWAS chairman, promptly held talks with Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, opposition politicians, supporters of ousted president Blaise Compaore, religious leaders and civil society groups on arrival in the capital.

Tensions running high

The talks did not start well, with opposition leaders storming out in protest over the possible involvement of Compaore loyalists in any provisional government. 

Security guards were forced to intervene as emotions ran high.

After the tense talks, Mahamas told the waiting media, "There were going to be elections next year. We believe that we should just work with that election date, which is next November. This means there will be a transitional government for one year and a new president will be elected."

Goodluck Jonathan and Senegal's Sall, part of the ECOWAS delegation, agreed with the timetable, Mahama said.

The final deal appeared to be welcomed by all sides, including the current interim leader, Zida.

"The meeting went very well," he said, adding that he hoped the teams would be able to "find a solution in order to achieve a civilian transition".

Delegates from the meetings with Mahama said that all the separate groups had been asked to select three candidates for the interim presidency, which would be discussed in a plenary meeting later on Wednesday.

Mahama said the presidents had recommended that members of the interim authority should not be permitted to stand in the elections next year.

Few details about transition

Standing out as a beacon of stability in a tumultuous region, Burkina Faso was plunged into political crisis last week after angry mobs took to the streets to protest efforts by Compaoré to extend his 27-year rule, sparking days of unrest in which the military appointed Zida interim leader.

Compaoré fled to neighbouring Ivory Coast with the help of France – the country’s former colonial master.

Zida has shown little resistance to domestic and international pressure to hand back the reins of the country, reportedly saying that a transition could be achieved “within two weeks,” in line with demands made by the African Union.

The army has claimed that "power does not interest us" and pledged to install a unity government with a "broad consensus".

However, Zida has offered few details about how the transition would be accomplished or who could replace him, and Western donors are keeping a close watch on the quickly evolving situation.

Canada, which provided some 28 million euros in aid between 2012 and 2013, raised the pressure on Tuesday by suspending development assistance.

It said funding would be restored when a "legitimate and accountable civil authority has been re-established".

The United States said it was still "gathering facts" but could yet withdraw its $14 million annual aid package.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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