OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, Oct. 31 (UPI) — The parliament building went up in flames last night as protesters apparently toppled the government of Burkina Faso, ending the 27-year reign of the unpopular president.
A mob of angry demonstrators ran wild through the streets of the capital of Ouagadougou as they overran state broadcasters, torched parliament and set ablaze homes of the relatives of President Blaise Compaoré. As the violence mounted, a government spokesman said a bill to extend the president’s term had been dropped.
The chief of staff of Burkina Faso’s armed forces said last night that a transitional authority would hold new elections within 12 months. He didn’t say who would form the interim government. Compaoré’s whereabouts were unknown, though he later vowed to stay in office.
France regards Compaoré as a key ally in confronting Islamic militants in the broader Sahel region. Burkina Faso, formerly called Upper Volta, is home to some 3,600 French citizens. The American Embassy in Ouagadougou said in a statement that the U.S. was “deeply concerned” by the violence and urged “all parties” to seek a peaceful outcome.
The violence was the most serious challenge to Compaoré’s power since he took office in 1987. If the protests keep Compaoré out of the president’s chair, it will be the first time since Arab Spring that a popular movement has removed an autocrat in sub-Saharan Africa.