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Burkina votes to bar ex-Compaore figures from office

Update: April, 08/2015 - 10:27

OUAGADOUGO, Burkina Faso — Burkina Faso's interim parliament voted yesterday to bar figures linked to deposed president Blaise Compaore from running for office, hours after several of the toppled leader's allies were arrested.

Ahead of the vote seven of Compaore's political allies, including three former ministers, were arrested for "alleged embezzlement," authorities said in a statement.

An eighth person linked to former foreign minister Djibrill Bassole was also held for "illegal political activities," and for "incitement to public disorder," said the statement.

The new electoral bill makes ineligible for October 11's presidential and legislative polls those who had publicly backed the former leader's efforts to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule.

Compaore's move to amend the constitution sparked violent mass protests that forced him to resign in October 2014, prompting the military and an interim government to take control of the landlocked west African nation of about 17 million people.

The former president's action constituted "a political crime," said Guy Herve Kam, spokesman for a collective that spearheaded the protests against Compaore. A political sanction had to be meted out, he added.

Cherif Sy, who chairs the interim parliament also welcomed the vote, saying "history is moving forward."

But Compaore's party Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) denounced the bill as illegal, and said it had to be validated by the Constitutional Council before it can become law.

The party had warned it would "vigorously" oppose the legislation, and civil society groups on both sides of the divide called for demonstrations over the law.

Analyst Siaka Coulibaly also called the legislation a "law of exclusion" which "would have trouble passing on an international level."

Brief clashes broke out in the capital Ouagadougou yesterday pitting protesters against police.

From its creation in 1996, the CDP was a pillar of Compaore's regime, winning every poll and after 2007 elections handing the strongman president an absolute parliamentary majority. It is now a minority party.

Neither interim president Michel Kafando nor military-ruler-turned-prime-minister Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, who took power after the popular uprising, are eligible to run in the upcoming polls.

President for life

Ahead of the parliament's vote, authorities arrested political supporters of Compaore, including three of his ex-ministers.

Former interior minister Jerome Bougouma, infrastructure minister Jean-Bertin Ouedraogo and mining minister Salif Kabore were taken into custody Monday and Tuesday, said Leonce Kone, from the CDP party.

The former ministers are among a string of figures connected to the old regime who have been arrested in recent days.

"They have been scattered into several detention centres," Kone said, accusing the authorities of "harassment."

Kone added that two former mayors, including the current secretary-general of the CDP party, were arrested in Burkina Faso's second city Bobo Dioulasso.

"The police suspected them of wanting to prepare an insurrection from Bobo Dioulasso over the electoral law vote," he said.

A security source said authorities also arrested a former mayor of the West African capital on charges of embezzlement.

On Monday, Security Minister Auguste Denise Barry warned "trouble-makers" that his forces would detain "anyone guilty of disturbing public order."

The head of a pro-Compaore association was arrested last Thursday, also over alleged embezzlement.

Like Compaore, several African presidents have tried, and often succeeded, to stay in power by reforming their countries' constitutions to remove limits on the number of presidential terms.

Chad, Cameroon, Gabon and Togo all now allow their leaders to keep running for office as long as they like. — AFP

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