Burkina Faso capital erupts in protest


Soldiers have shot into the air, stolen cars and looted shops in the western part of Burkina Faso’s capital as protests by military guards against unpaid housing allowances spread, witnesses said.

The presidential compound in Ouagadougou was calm on Friday after gunfire erupted there overnight. President Blaise Compaoré was apparently not in the presidential compound at the time, a source there said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

Unrest that started from two presidential guard barracks spread to camp Lamizana in western Ouagadougou.

Scattered looting had begun overnight in the capital of one of the world’s poorest countries and soldiers looted and burned the homes of Compaoré aides.

A presidential security source, who spoke on condition on anonymity for security reasons, told the Associated Press that the soldiers were expressing their discontent after promises to pay their housing allowances were not kept.

Colonel Moussa Cissé, spokesman for the army, said that so far there were no casualties and negotiations were under way with the soldiers.

About two hours after the shooting began at 10pm on Thursday, gunfire was heard near the state radio station in Ouagadougou. Employees at the station said no one was hurt but some were hiding in the building.

No official statement has been made.

Compaoré, who seized power in a bloody coup 23 years ago, was re-elected by a landslide in a November vote rejected by the opposition as being rigged. The former army captain took power in 1987 after the former leader was shot dead in his office.

Burkina Faso has been hit by unrest recently. On 8 April people took to the streets of Ouagadougou to protest against the soaring prices of basic foods.

In March, students torched government buildings in several cities to protest against a young man’s death in custody. The government said he had meningitis, but accusations of mistreatment have fuelled protests, resulting in the deaths of at least six others.

Burkina Faso is near the bottom of the United Nations’ human development index, which measures general wellbeing, ranked 161 out of 169 nations. It has high rates of unemployment and illiteracy, and most people get by on subsistence agriculture.