Burkina Faso town hit by fresh violence in wave of protests

OUAGADOUGOU — Violent protests erupted anew in the troubled town of Koudougou in Burkina Faso where angry shopkeepers and students set fire to the mayor’s home and a police headquarters, witnesses told AFP.

Koudougou, 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of the capital, was the birthplace of a wave of protests in the west African country two months ago, placing growing pressure on long-serving leader Blaise Compaore, in power for 24 years.

On Wednesday, shopkeepers protested a decision by mayor Seydou Zagre, a member of the ruling party, to close some 40 shops which had failed to pay local taxes. Students later joined the march by several hundred people.

Witnesses said the angry crowd set fire to the mayor’s home, local municipal police headquarters and a local public development establishment.

The first protest in Koudougou took place on February 22 when students took to the streets, saying a school pupil said to have died of meningitis was in fact tortured and killed in police custody.

Allegations of impunity in the police, torture and cover-ups and the high cost of living have led to a wave of protests among all sectors of the population against Compaore’s regime.

Soldiers also mutinied, over the imprisonment of several colleagues for sex crimes and later for better pay and working conditions, going on the rampage in several towns across the country.

At least six people have been killed and many injured during the protests, while mass looting by mutinous soldiers led to considerable material damage. A curfew in the capital Ouagadougou has been in place since mid-April.

Compaore tried to quell the unrest by firing his government and several military chiefs, and ordering the payment of bonuses to soldiers.

He also named himself defence minister and appointed a new prime minister, former ambassador Luc Adolphe Tiao.

The opposition has called for a large protest on Saturday against Compaore, who after seizing power in a 1987 coup has been re-elected four times since 1991, with over 80 percent in contested polls.

Adding to the country’s ills are woeful social conditions, with much of the 16 million population living on barely one euro a day, while prices of basic goods continue to rise and political elites live opulent lives, according to the opposition.
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