Burkina Faso transition talks off to rocky start
Ouagadougou (AFP) - Talks on forming a transition government in Burkina Faso began Saturday with the army at first declining to join, while ousted leader Blaise Compaore accused his opponents of jointly plotting his overthrow.
Around 60 representatives of political parties and civil society met in the capital Ouagadougou to hammer out a handover plan, after Compaore fled following a mass uprising against his bid to revise the constitution and extend his 27-year rule.
The army, who named Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida to head the west African country, had first refused to take part in the talks but later sent a delegation led by Zida's right-hand man, Colonel August Denise Barry, who made only a brief appearance at the discussions.
A participant in the talks, who requested anonymity, said the conference was seeking to convince the army to sign a joint declaration.
A representative of civil society who was present at an interview with Zida said the military ruler had insisted that members of ousted Compaore's political party also be included in the talks, which the other parties have so far refused to do.
"For the purpose of reconciliation and reconstruction, one cannot exclude a party of the people," Zida said, according to the source who requested anonymity.
The army's power grab in the landlocked west African country has attracted international condemnation and threats of sanctions from the African Union unless it hands over power within two weeks.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Bisa Williams reiterated calls for a democratic transition after his talks Saturday with Zida in the capital.
"We're counting on respect for the (army's) promise to put in place a democratic transition government which is led by a civilian," Williams said in French.
Washington and Paris, Burkina Faso's two main allies and donors, have been pressuring the military to quickly carry out elections.
The civilian groups have already agreed that the transition should last one year and that it should be led by a civilian before presidential and legislative elections take place by November 2015.
But there was no agreement on the person to head the transition.
The proposals were due to be presented Monday to mediators from the United Nations, the African Union and the west African regional bloc ECOWAS.
- Compaore speaks out -
From his exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast, Compaore meanwhile accused the opposition of plotting a coup with the army, in an interview published Saturday.
"We knew for a long time that part of the opposition was working with the army. Their aim: to prepare a coup d'etat," Compaore told Jeune Afrique magazine.
"They wanted me to leave. I left. History will tell us if they were right," said the 63-year-old who first took power in a 1987 coup.
As for Zida, Compaore said the lieutenant colonel was in a position that he would "not wish for his worst enemy."
In his Burkinabe hometown of Ziniare, only about 40 kilometres from the capital, a pro-Compaore sentiment lives on.
"He was our brother, we don't know what is going to happen," a young bicycle seller told AFP, asking not to be named.
The deposed president "treated his hometown like the others, without favouritism," said civil servant Ousmane Lengane.
While some residents spoke resentfully of the wealth and influence of members of the Compaore family, the townspeople were frightened when the president resigned on October 31.
They were afraid the protesters in the capital would come to destroy Ziniare, according to the mayor.