Burkina Faso police fire tear gas at protests against state of emergency

Up to 1,000 arrested during day of demonstrations against the government’s worsening economic and security situation

Burkina Faso’s police fired tear gas and sound bombs at thousands of protesters in the capital on Sunday as unrest continued to rage over the arrest of opposition politicians and the state of emergency.

On Saturday, up to 1,000 protesters took to the streets of Ouagadougou, filling the streets with orange smoke that was then lit up by traditional torches and homemade firework, reflecting anger at the government’s handling of the political crisis.

The government banned protests in the capital, though a spokesman for the public security ministry said the ministry would not prevent protests if they were organised by civil society or the media.

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Security forces fired tear gas and sound bombs to disperse protesters chanting “Resign!” and “We don’t want the president”. The events took place on the third day of demonstrations by opposition parties and civic groups, calling for the president to step down and give up power.

Many were fearful of violent clashes after riot police tried to disperse protesters on Saturday and two people were killed, including a 12-year-old girl, according to protest organisers. On Friday two more people were reported to have been killed in clashes in the capital.

“The origin of the violence is so many things. It’s because people are tired, we are tired of the way the country is,” said Oumar Djoki Djoukone, secretary general of the Movement for the Democratic Revolution.

The crisis in Burkina Faso, one of the smallest and poorest countries in west Africa, erupted last October when a mob of supporters of the former long-serving leader, Blaise Compaore, burned down the presidential palace and opposition offices. The government had to introduce emergency rule to maintain order.

In early December the government announced emergency measures, which are in force until 13 February.

In January, the country’s prime minister told civil society groups that the ruling party wanted a compromise, but they would have to amend the constitution to remove an elected president from power, at the maximum possible length of time.

The crisis has also led to a loss of confidence in the country’s financial institutions and African investors are anxious to see what happens, said Ambassador Maiga Sow, of the African Development Bank. “It is symptomatic of a broader phenomenon that has been happening in Africa for some time: unrest in government-stacked states seems to be taking over public opinion, even if the objective is to kill time and avoid constitution-amending.”

Billionaire businessman Jean Michel Aoun, Burkina Faso’s former prime minister, is a potential presidential candidate in 2019 elections.

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