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Burkina Faso army says it will cede power

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Burkina Faso’s army will cede power to a transitional government and appoint a new head of state, Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Zida, the country’s interim president, has said.

“We are going to move very fast, but be careful not to commit a mistake that might damage our country,” Zida said on Monday.

“We are not here to usurp power and to sit in place and run the country, but to help the country come out of this situation,” Zida said, adding that a new head of state would be chosen following broad discussions with various groups.

His announcement came in the wake of crisis meetings late on Sunday and Monday between Zida and opposition leaders after thousands gathered to denounce his appointment in the central Place de la Nation – the scene of violent protests last week during which the parliament was set alight.
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from the capital Ouagadougou, said that the country’s neighbours wanted to see a swift transition to civilan rule “because they dont want a precedent to be set”.

Our correspondent added that it was still unclear if the proposed leader would be a civilian but that protesters remained adamant they did not want military rule.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council, meanwhile, decided on Monday to give the military two weeks to return the country to constitutional rule or face sanctions.

“We ask the armed forces to transfer power to the civil authorities, and the council has determined a period of two weeks for the transfer,” Simeon Oyono Esono, head of the AU’s Peace and Security Council, said on Monday following a meeting at the bloc’s headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“The African Union is convinced that the change has been against democracy. However, we know that popular pressure led to the resignation of the president.

“Those circumstances were taken by the armed forces to get into power, but it originated from the people,” Esono said.

The army stepped into a power vacuum after Blaise Compaore, currently in neighbouring Ivory Coast with his family, was forced to resign the presidency last week in the wake of violent demonstrations over an attempt to extend his 27-year rule.

Naming Zida as leader on Saturday, the military had said it was acting in the interests of the nation and that “power does not interest us”.

But its takeover has also sparked angry protests.

Zida has held meetings with French, American and EU diplomats, who also urged him to hand power back to civilian leaders.

Senior opposition figures also met with their leader Zephirin Diabre.

Meanwhile, the opposition has raised fears that the military would expand its powers.

“The political opposition and civil society organisations insist that the victory of the popular uprising belongs to the people and therefore the transition government legitimately falls to them and should under no circumstances be confiscated by the military,” Jean-Hubert Bazie, a spokesman for the opposition parties, told Al Jazeera.

Shots fired

The army on Sunday launched a crackdown when several thousand protesters gathered at a rally against the military takeover in the city’s central square.

Some protesters had headed to the national television station headquarters where two opposition leaders made separate attempts to go on air to declare themselves interim leader.

Former defence minister Kouame Lougue, whose name was chanted by thousands in the streets following Compaore’s downfall, told the AFP news agency: “The people have nominated me. I came to answer their call.”

But the TV technicians walked out, interrupting transmission and also foiling a bid by Saran Sereme, a former member of the ruling party, to make her claim as leader.

One person was killed close to the television headquarters where soldiers fired shots in the air to disperse protesters. The army said the victim was likely struck by a stray bullet. Al Jazeera

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