Burkina army chief: Gov't to meet with soldiers

AP News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 12:31 PM
Burkina army chief: Gov't to meet with soldiers

Burkina Faso's army chief took command of the country's restive armed forces on Tuesday and said the government will meet with soldiers to resolve issues behind a mutiny that has threatened the president's 24-year rule over this impoverished country.

The mutiny began Thursday in the capital when members of the presidential guard began firing into the air, demanding unpaid housing allowances. By Monday, soldiers in several cities north, south, east and west of Ouagadougou joined in and students burned down the ruling party headquarters and the prime minister's house in a central city.

President Blaise Compaore tried to stem the unrest Friday by dissolving the government _ but keeping himself in power _ and removing the country's security chiefs, including the army head.

Gen. Nabere Honore Traore said during his transfer-of-power ceremony Tuesday that the government will resolve the crisis through dialogue with soldiers.

An elite group of soldiers announced late Monday that they want their colleagues to stop protesting and apologized for the unrest.

"We invite our brothers in arms around the country to stop the protests because we now see the damage that can be caused within the civilian population, which we are well advised to protect and defend," said a member of the group, Moussa Ag Abdoulaye.

Late Monday, Compaore named a new prime minister, Luc Adolphe Tiao, a longtime ally and Ivory Coast's ambassador to France.

This year's uprisings started in late February when students protested a young man's death in custody. The government said he had meningitis, but accusations he had been mistreated while in custody fueled protests in which at least six people died and buildings were torched.

Experts say hostilities in the landlocked West African country have been simmering for a long time. The former U.S. ambassador to the country, David Shinn, said it is likely the early protests by students were inspired by developments in Tunisia and other north African countries that have seen regime changes.

Compaore, a former army captain, came to power in a 1987 coup in which Burkina Faso's first president, Thomas Sankara, was killed. Compaore was re-elected in November in a vote that the opposition said was rigged.

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Associated Press writer Carley Petesch in Johannesburg contributed to this report.