Burkina Faso’s military has backed presidential guard officer Isaac Zida to head a transitional government after the country’s long-term leader was forced to quit amid unrest.
Zida’s announcement that he was taking over, followed by an army statement confirming his nomination, ends confusion over who would replace veteran President Blaise Compaoré in the short term. The military’s chief of staff, General Nabéré Honoré Traoré, had initially claimed the job but he has been sidelined.
The army’s declaration said Zida was chosen unanimously.
One of Africa’s long-serving rulers, Compaoré stepped down on Friday after two days of mass protests against his attempts to change the constitution to extend his 27 years in power. He has now fled to the neighbouring Ivory Coast.
With an average age of less than 18, most of Burkina Faso’s 17 million population have never known another leader.
Crowds danced, cheered and blew whistles in the central Place de la Nation in the capital Ouagadougou after Compaore’s resignation.
“This is a ‘sub-Saharan Spring’ and it must continue against all the presidents who are trying to hang on to power in Africa,” said law student Lucien Trinnou on Friday, referring to the Arab Spring that toppled several long-term leaders.
A clean-up operation is underway in Ouagadougou after parliament was stormed and set on fire during the protests. At least three people were killed.
What happens next is being watched closely by ex-colonial power France and beyond with the country a key ally in Western operations against al Qaeda-linked groups in West Africa.