Burkina’s army leader rejects two-week return to civilian rule
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Burkina Faso's army-appointed leader on Thursday shrugged off a demand by the African Union to return power to a civilian government within two weeks, saying what is more critical is ensuring a smooth transition through elections next year.
Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Zida declared that "we are not afraid of sanctions" and that stability and peace trumped all, after the country was thrown into turmoil when a violent popular uprising toppled long-running president Blaise Compaore.
Zida's remarks came a day after the army, political parties and civil society leaders agreed that elections would be held in November 2015 and that an "eminent civilian personality" would lead the transition.
The parties were locked in negotiations again on Thursday, to try to find this unity leader, although the army was not involved in these talks.
The military's decision to take the reins in the aftermath of Compaore's exit sparked angry protests at home and prompted threats of sanctions from abroad.
The African Union on Monday gave the country a fortnight to return to civilian rule.
But Zida told reporters: "We are not afraid of sanctions, we care much more about stability and peace for (the) people."
"The deadline that has been imposed on us... is not really a concern for us."
"The AU can say within three days, that is an engagement only for the African Union.
"What is important is to be able to come to a consensus to get through the year without any problems and to hold elections which would be recognised by everyone," he said, as a two-day emergency summit of west African bloc ECOWAS began in the Ghanaian capital Accra to discuss the crisis.
'In the right direction'
In Ouagadougou, many were hopeful that an end to the crisis was near.
It's going in the right direction," said Harouna Kabore, a 37-year-old boss of a company.
"It's encouraging because we are advancing," said Ousmane Ouedraogo, a consultant.
Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama, who mediated in Wednesday's talks alongside his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan and Senegal's President Macky Sall, voiced optimism that the transfer of power to civilians would be achieved swiftly.
"I believe that... in days rather than weeks, we'll be able to achieve an agreement and install a transitional government," he said.
In scenes compared to the Arab Spring, Compaore was forced to flee the country Friday after tens of thousands took to the streets and set parliament ablaze in violent protests at his bid to extend his 27-year rule.
French President Francois Hollande subsequently said Paris helped evacuate Compaore to prevent a potential "bloodbath" in the former French colony.
The ousted president and his wife are staying in a government mansion in Yamoussoukro, the capital of neighbouring Ivory Coast.
Aid funding at stake
Zida's appointment as interim chief had fired up the population again, but top brass swiftly claimed that "power does not interest us" and pledged to install a unity government with a "broad consensus".
International donors, whose funding is crucial to the impoverished country, were watching the situation closely.
Canada said its aid of around $35 million (28 million euros) would be restored when a "legitimate and accountable civil authority has been re-established".
Washington said it was still "gathering facts" but could yet withdraw its $14 million annual aid package.