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Burkina Faso talks off to rocky start

Talks on forming a transition government in Burkina Faso have begun with the army at first declining to join.


About 60 representatives of political parties and civil society met in the capital Ouagadougou to hammer out a handover plan, after leader Blaise 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.

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 on Monday to mediators from the United Nations, the African Union and the west African regional bloc ECOWAS.

Meanwhile, ousted Compaore, from his exile in neighbouring Ivory Coast, accused his opponents of jointly plotting his overthrow.

“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.