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President of Burkina Faso Announces Dissolution of Government

Protests have turned to riots in the African nation over planned vote to amend presidential term limits.
October 30, 2014, 3:45pm
Anonymous via Storyful

After a day filled with violent riots in opposition of his nearly three decade rule, Burkina Faso's president announced on Thursday evening the dissolution of the government and has promised to work with opposition leaders to restore peace.

President Blaise Compaoré also declared a state of emergency as much of the capital city of Ouagadougou was ransacked in protests throughout the day.

"A state of emergency is declared across the national territory. The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today," Compaoré said in a statement.

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"I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change. I'm calling on the leaders of the political opposition to put an end to the protests. I'm pledging from today to open talks with all the actors to end the crisis," the statement said.

The protests devolved into riots on Thursday morning as a crowd of more than 1,000 set fire to parliament Ouagadougou in response to a planned vote that could allow Compaoré to continue his disputed 27-year reign as the leader of the West African country.

Protesters then set fire to the ruling party's headquarters, city hall, and houses of government officials. Burkina Faso officials shut down the main airport in response to the protest, according to a report from the BBC.

A video of the conflagration shows hundreds of protesters marching across the capital, with thick plumes of smoke in the background. Authorities appear to be shooting water cannons into the crowd, sending people scattering. The end of the video contains aerial footage of the demonstrations, including the burning government buildings.

So far, five people have been reported killed in Thursday's events, according to the BBC, as the military has been shooting live rounds into the melee. Government helicopters also dropped tear gas into the crowds, Reuters reported.

Later in the morning, protesters gathered at the headquarters of the opposition, which is being led by Zéphirin Diabré. Maître Sankara, a well-known member of the opposition, told VICE News, "I have tasted freedom" as he arrived at the opposition headquarters.

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Military personnel have allegedly joined the protests, including former defense minister General Kouame Lougue. Diabré, who protesters have rallied around, has called for the military to join the people.

Diabré told the crowd that he had seen dozens of bodies in the streets of Ouagadougou, casualties of the protests. He then called on the president to step down to raucous cheering from the crowd.

Around noon, the protesters began marching toward the presidential palace, where Compaoré was rumored to be holed up, protected by his heavily armed guard. Compaoré's location hasn't been confirmed, but his brother is reported to have been arrested.

Compaoré has been in power since a coup in 1987 and has won four elections since, though the outcomes of those elections have been disputed.

Protests began in response to a proposed amendment to the country's constitutional limit on presidential terms, which could have kept Compaoré in power. The government previously canceled the parliamentary vote due to protests, according to Burkina24, and now has canceled all functions.

Some residents of the capital avoided the protests and began looting in the capital. Amid the chaos, people have been seen on motorcycles carrying stolen televisions. Reports have emerged that the police and military have fled the city.

Earlier in the day, the government insisted that the rest of the country was calm, but reports from the southwestern city of Bobo Dioulasso said that protesters set fire to government buildings there.

BurkinaFaso French media reported the president's brother has been arrested as he tried to flee the country via @guardian

— Robert Nagila (@Rnagila)October 30, 2014