/ 18 April 2011

Burkina Faso mutiny spreads as police, students riot

A mutiny in Burkina Faso spread on Monday as police joined soldiers on a rampage in a northern town, and students staged violent protests in the west against President Blaise Compaore’s regime.

Soldiers and paramilitary police poured into the streets of the northern town of Kaya, firing shots into the air, and torching the home of an army regiment chief and ransacking that of a regional officer, residents told Agence France-Presse (AFP) by telephone.

It was the first time police had taken part in the uprising that began in the capital, Ouagadougou, late Thursday. An official said they were demanding their wages and were to be paid on Monday.

Kaya was the fourth town to be affected in the landlocked West African state after Ouagadougou and the small centres of Po and Tenkodogo in the south.

Meanwhile, protesting youths in Koudougou in western Burkina Faso also turned to violence, burning down the premises of the ruling party and a home of ex-prime minister Tertius Zongo, witnesses said.

The demonstration was initially a peaceful one by students and school pupils, residents said, but it degenerated. The home of the headmaster of the town’s main school was also burned down.

“We want to make the ruling power … look into our concerns” and establish “truth and justice for Justin Zongo and all victims of repression”, the students said in a statement sent to AFP.

They were referring to a student who died in a February demonstration, killed by police according to his relatives while authorities said the boy was ill.

Wave of protests
The latest wave of protests erupted on Thursday as mutineers ran riot in the capital, demanding better pay and housing and food benefits.

They “have not received their pay for the month of March”, said a source close to the general staff.

“They also want their bonuses to be aligned on those of the presidential guard,” he said, adding that “the wages will be paid today [Monday]”.

To try to control the situation, veteran leader Compaore, who has ruled for more than two decades, on Friday dissolved his government and named a new head of the armed forces.

Ouagadougou, which had been shut down since Thursday because of the unrest, was returning to normal Monday, with banks and public offices opening.

But traders refused to open their stalls at the central market, though they were present. On Saturday they had violently protested against the soldiers who had looted and burned their businesses during the rampage.

The violence in the capital had seen at least 45 people admitted to hospital with injuries while a number of rapes were also reported, a hospital source told AFP on Saturday.

Po and Tenkodogo were also calm Monday after soldiers had opened fire in the streets and looted shops at the weekend, residents said. — AFP