A Million Protest Burkina Faso President Reelection Bid

A Million Protest Burkina Faso President Reelection Bid A Million Protest Burkina Faso President Reelection Bid

Police fired teargas Tuesday at demonstrators in Ouagadougou protesting against President Blaise Compaore’s plans to extend his 27-year rule by seeking re-election next year, with activists saying up to a million people had joined the protest.

Protesters battled police in the capital of Burkina Faso on Tuesday after a massive rally against plans to let the long-serving president extend his rule beyond 30 years.

Firing tear gas, security forces charged demonstrators after they apparently ventured too close to parliament. Most of the protesters fled but several hundred stayed on to battle the police, according to AFP.

The violence erupted at the end of a march in Ouagadougou that drew up to a million people, according to opposition leaders fighting to prevent what they see as a constitutional coup by supporters of President Blaise Compaore.

Schools and universities have closed for the week of protests planned in the impoverished West African nation against the move to prolong Campaore’s 27-year-rule by allowing him to seek another term next year.

Protesters carried banners reading “Blaise Get Out!” or “Don’t Touch Article 37”, in reference to the constitutional term limit that may be scrapped to let the president seek reelection.

The leader of Compaore’s party in parliament, Assimi Kouanda, accused the protestors of attacking deputies and called on the president to “take every measure to guarantee security”.

  15 More Years

Compaore was only 36 when he seized power in an October 1987 coup in which his former friend and one of Africa’s most loved leaders, Thomas Sankara, was ousted and assassinated.

He has remained in power since then, reelected president four times since 1991 -- to two seven-year and two five-year terms.

In 2005, constitutional limits were introduced and Compaore is therefore coming to the end of his second five-year term.

The opposition fears the new rules -- which are not expected to take previous terms into account -- would enable Compaore to seek reelection not just one, but three more times, paving the way for up to 15 more years in power.

The third largest party in parliament said at the weekend it would back the amendment, setting the ruling party on course to obtain the two-thirds majority it needs to make the change without resorting to a referendum as first promised.

Opposition leaders have called on the public to blockade parliament to prevent the review from taking place.

Civil society groups have also asked for the project to be dropped, saying the country risks being paralyzed if the amendment goes through.

Compaore’s bid to cling on to power has angered the opposition and much of the public, including many young people in a country where 60 percent of the population is under 25.