The African Union on Monday told Burkina Faso’s army that it must transfer power back to civilians within two weeks, following days of unrest that have left the military in charge in the West African country. The announcement from the regional group came amid domestic and international efforts to form a transitional government to help the country resolve its political crisis.
“We ask the armed forces to transfer power to the civil authorities, and the council has determined a period of two weeks for the transfer,” Simeon Oyono Esono, head of the AU’s Peace and Security Council said on Monday evening.
Blaise Compaoré stepped down from power last week in the wake of violent demonstrations following his attempt to extend his 27-year-rule. Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida declared himself the interim head of state.
“The African Union is convinced that the change has been against democracy. However, we know that popular pressure led to the resignation of the president,” Esono said.
“Having taken note of the origin of the popular revolt which led the military to assume power, we determined a period of two weeks, and after that period we are going to apply sanctions,” he warned.
Earlier on Monday Zida tried to ease tensions by saying a unity government would soon rule the country within the framework of the country’s constitution.
But he avoided giving a precise timetable for transferring power to an interim group or new head of state.
According to Anna Sylvestre-Treiner, FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in the capital of Ouagadougou, Zida’s statement was meant to reassure political leaders at home and abroad.
On Sunday the army used tear gas and fired warning shots in Ouagadougou to disperse protesters who were decrying the military takeover.
Quoting sources who wished to remain anonymous, FRANCE 24’s Sylvestre-Treiner said Zida was willing to forfeit power to a lawmaker or a member of civil society group in the coming days.
Even if Zida negotiates an exit protecting him from future legal charges, the same sources said the military would likely continue to be involved in the transitional process.
Before giving Burkina Faso’s army the two-week ultimatum on Monday, international bodies had already expressed hope for a speedy return to civilian rule.
“We are hoping for a transition led by civilians, in line with the constitutional order,” Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations envoy for West Africa, said over the weekend.
“He (Zida) said he will reflect and try to work with the UN, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States and to find an acceptable agreement which conforms to the constitution,” Chambas explained, adding that sanctions were a possibility if no diplomatic solution was found.
Under Burkina Faso’s constitution, the head of the National Assembly should take office if the president resigns, with a mandate to organise elections within 90 days. However, the army has dissolved the legislature and suspended the constitution. France 24 with AFP, Reuters