OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Police used tear gas on Tuesday to disperse an opposition protest in Burkina Faso's capital, as tensions increase ahead of a vote this week on whether the country's longtime president can seek another term.
Thousands of people who say President Blaise Compaore has been in power long enough rallied in the capital of Ouagadougou, chanting "27 years is enough" and "we do not need a referendum."
Compaore has been in power since 1987. Under the current rule, he would not be able to run again once his current term expires next year.
The parliament votes Thursday on a bill that calls for a constitutional amendment that would increase term limits. If the measure passes by a simple majority, a referendum will be called on the subject, but if it passes with a three-quarters majority, the constitution can be amended without a referendum. The measure looks likely to pass after a smaller party threw its support behind the ruling party this weekend.
But opposition leaders have vowed to prevent parliamentarians from getting to the chamber on Thursday, raising tensions in a West African country known for its relative stability and economic growth in a volatile region.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department raised concerns about the proposal and singled out Burkina Faso security forces in urging the country to debate the issue peacefully.
Term limits "provide an important mechanism to hold heads of state accountable, ensure peaceful and democratic transfers of power, and give new generations the opportunity to compete for political office and elect new leaders," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday.
Tuesday's protest was largely peaceful until some began pushing against the barricades and threatened to move toward the parliament. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, which had mostly gone home by the afternoon.
There were smaller rallies around the country, and protesters in one area attacked the regional headquarters of the ruling party. No one was hurt.
Associated Press writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report from Washington.