OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso’s president sacked his government and army chief on Friday, national radio reported, after disgruntled soldiers went on the rampage in the capital and fired their weapons in an apparent mutiny.
President Blaise Compaore also fired the head of his security regiment, national radio said, after the most serious in a string of protests over the past month by disgruntled soldiers which involved members of the presidential guard.
According to the statement from the president read over national radio in the West African country, Compaore announced “the dissolution of government.”
“The secretary generals of ministerial departments will ensure the execution of current business,” according to the statement.
Members of the presidential security regiment stationed near Compaore’s palace had fired into the air late on Thursday, angry promised benefits had not been paid, said a military source, who asked not to be named.
Soldiers from three more barracks joined the protest and the houses of some military chiefs responsible for the president’s security were attacked, the source said.
Witnesses heard automatic weapons fire from around 2100 GMT (5 p.m. EST) on Thursday. The shooting continued on Friday in parts of Ouagadougou, with soldiers looting shops and commandeering cars.
Calm returned to the city’s streets in the early afternoon.
“I was going in the direction of the Lamizana (military) camp when I heard the gunfire. I saw people rushing back toward me, so I turned around and went back home,” said Pierre Tapsoba, a resident of the Gounghin neighborhood in the west of the capital Ouagadougou.
“I haven’t been out since. It’s bad,” he said.
An government statement said there had been a “demonstration” by soldiers since Thursday to demand housing and food subsidies.
“The government reassures the population that measures are being taken at this moment to resolve this situation, and expresses its regret and solidarity for all the people who have suffered inconveniences in this event,” the statement said.
A military source later said mutineers in the presidential guard had received housing and food allowances.
“We’ve found money to satisfy them, so it should be the end of the problem. But you never know with these kids,” he said, adding 40 cars had been stolen by the soldiers.
Burkina Faso has been under Compaore’s tight rule since he took power in a 1987 coup and has so far avoided the conflicts and upheavals seen in many of its neighbors.
He won a new five-year term in office after a November election in which he took 80 percent of votes.
Compaore agreed in March to discuss grievances within the military after violent protests by soldiers over the arrest of a colleague.
“The mutiny is a major concern as soldiers of the presidential guard are better paid than the others,” said Lydie Boka, analyst at Strategico.
“Over the recent weeks, students and the general population as well as the opposition have taken to the streets in Burkina to protest against the regime.”
Last Friday, tens of thousands of people marched in Ouagadougou against the high cost of living. The country ranks 161 out of 169 countries on the U.N.’s Human Development Index, a composite measure of life quality.
Additional reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Writing by Silvia Aloisi and Bate Felix; Editing by Sophie Hares