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Burkina army vows unity govt, protesters denounce power grab

Update: November, 03/2014 - 10:00

OUAGADOUGOU – Burkina Faso's military vowed to install a unity government after tightening its control over the west African nation, firing tear gas and shots in the air to disperse protesters denouncing an army power grab.

Troops moved into Place de la Nation in the capital Ouagadougou and took over the national television headquarters in a show of force, despite calls by the international community and protesters for a return to civilian rule.

Threatened with economic sanctions, the military pledged to put in place a transition government formed by "broad consensus."

The army has stepped into the power vacuum left by president Blaise Compaore, who was forced to resign in the wake of violent street demonstrations over his 27-year-rule that some have likened to the Arab Spring.

But the military said it was acting only with the interests of the nation at heart and that "power does not interest us."

"What is currently at stake is more than self interest," it said in a statement issued after Isaac Zida – the man it named as interim chief – met opposition leaders.

UN envoy for West Africa Mohamed Ibn Chambas said he had joined African leaders in pressing the country's military top brass to hand power back to civilians.

If the army refuses, "the consequences are pretty clear," he said. "We want to avoid having to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso." There were similar calls from the United States and European Union.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters, furious at plans to extend Compaore's rule in the impoverished landlocked country, had massed on the streets of Ouagadougou on Thursday, some going on a rampage and setting the parliament and other public buildings ablaze. — AFP

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