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Burkina Faso names interim president

Diplomat Michel Kafando has been chosen as Burkina Faso’s interim president, officials in the west African country announced Monday, and will head the country until 2015.

Kafando, one of four candidates, was selected after several hours of negotiation. “The consensus candidate is Michel Kafando,” said Ignace Sandwidi, a representative of the Catholic Church, which was involved in the discussions to find a leader.

The race to select Burkina Faso’s interim president stretched into Monday as the country sought to choose a new leader ahead of a looming African Union (AU) sanctions deadline. 

Four candidates – ranging from a crusading journalist to a former top diplomat – emerged after tangled negotiations between the army, political parties and civil society groups in the west African nation, which has been seeking a leader to oversee the transition back to civilian rule after the army seized power when longtime ruler Blaise Compaore was toppled by protests.

Initially Paul Ouedraogo, the Catholic archbishop of the southern Bobo-Dioulasso diocese, appeared to be a frontrunner despite his reluctance, but the Church later announced “categorically” that he was not in the race.

The archbishop had himself told French radio last week: “The cleric doesn’t engage in this kind of power.”

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church said “there will be no archbishop among the candidates”.

The choices that were being mulled ranged from journalist Cherif Sy, who founded a weekly that had been bitingly critical of Compaore, former television presenter and journalist Newton Ahmed Barry, former top diplomat Michel Kafando and sociologist and ex-minister Josephine Ouedraogo. The authorities in the country of 17-million were trying to pick an interim head for a one-year transition period up to elections in November 2015.

Lieutenant Colonel Issac Zida, the army-installed leader, had given the various parties until noon on Sunday to submit names to a panel of 23 mainly civilian electors.

Sanctions
The AU on November 3 issued an ultimatum to Burkina Faso to establish interim institutions and pick an interim president by Monday or face sanctions following Compaore’s October 31 ouster and the army takeover.

The electoral college met for the first time early Sunday in the capital Ouagadougou. The army backed Kafando, now the interim president, who served two stints at the United Nations and was also foreign minister, and Ouedraogo, a sociologist who served as family development minister in the 1980s.

On Saturday, the military reinstated the Constitution, suspended when the army filled the vacuum created by the departure of Compaore, who ruled for 27 years after seizing power in a coup.

A “transition charter” – a sort of interim Constitution hammered out between the military and civilian, opposition and religious figures last week – was officially signed on Sunday by the military. Applause erupted after Zida initialled the document, which marked his acceptance of a return to civilian leadership in the country.

Under the deal, the president will appoint a prime minister, either a civilian or a military figure, who will head a 25-member transitional government. A civilian will also head a 90-seat Parliament, known as the National Transitional Council. 

According to a draft of the transition blueprint, no members of the interim regime will be allowed to stand in the November 2015 election. Compaore, who seized power in 1987, quit after violent protests sparked by his bid to extend his rule by changing the constitution of the landlocked former French colony. – AFP

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