Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore, facing a mutiny by his personal guard, strove to reassert his authority on Friday after mass street protests and a night when soldiers ran riot.
The mutiny broke out on Thursday night in two barracks, including one in the compound of Compaore’s residence in Ouagadougou, and spread on Friday morning to three other army bases in the capital, mutineers and army officers said.
Both sides told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that they were holding talks on the grievances of the soldiers, which included housing and food allowances. Light and heavy gunfire was heard in the early hours and resumed in late morning.
“We’re claiming a lot of things,” including bonuses, one soldier told AFP, asking not to be named. “We’re angry with our commanders. We don’t want to work for them to get rich.”
Leave of absence
Compaore, who has been in power since a 1987 military coup, slipped out of Ouagadougou during the night to spend a few hours in his home town, Ziniare, around 30km north of the capital, a source at his residence said.
Before leaving, the president said “discussions have taken place with the mutineers and they are laying down their arms,” but gunfire could still be heard.
Presidential guard members took to the streets, firing into the air.
Troops also set fire to the home of General Gilbert Diendiere, Compaore’s personal chief of staff, and those of two other officers, an AFP journalist said.
Soldiers also looted many consumer goods’ stores in the city centre and several people, including civilians, were slightly injured.