People demonstrate near the presidential palace after soldiers arrested Burkina Faso’s transitional president and prime minister in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. (AP)
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – While gunfire rang out in the streets, Burkina Faso’s military took to the airwaves Thursday to declare it now controls the West African country, confirming that a coup has taken place just weeks before elections.
The announcement aired on national television and radio said the transitional government was dissolved and the interim president no longer in power.
The coup leaders, who come from an elite presidential guard unit that had disagreed publicly with the transitional government in recent months, identified themselves as the National Council for Democracy.
Their public statement confirmed what many suspected Wednesday when the transitional president and prime minister were arrested and barricades were erected around the presidency.
The communique read by Lt. Col. Mamadou Bamba criticized the electoral code, which blocked members of the ex-president’s party from taking part in the Oct. 11 elections. Anyone who supported the ex-president’s bid to amend the constitution so he could seek another term is also banned from running.
Bamba on Thursday announced the beginning of a “coherent, fair and equitable process” that would lead to inclusive elections. The power grab violated the country’s constitution.
The transitional government came to power after the president of 27 years, Blaise Compaore, was ousted late last year in a public uprising. Demonstrators at one point had set fire to the parliament building to protest his move to amend the constitution so he could prolong his rule.
Burkina Faso hosts French special forces and serves as an important ally of both France and the United States in the fight against Islamic militants in West Africa. While Burkina Faso has largely been spared from extremist violence, a Romanian national was abducted in April, and a Mali-based jihadi group claimed responsibility.