Burkina protesters storm parliament

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Gunfire has been reported near Burkina Faso’s presidential palace, after hundreds of protesters stormed parliament and set fire to the building on Thursday (October 30). The unrest happened as lawmakers prepared to vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow longtime President Blaise Compaore to run for another term.

Blaise Compaore is under pressure to bow out gracefully at the end of his current term in office

A Voice of America reporter in Ouagadougou says riot police were using tear gas and water cannons to hold back a protest outside parliament, but the demonstrators broke through barriers and rushed the building. The reporter, Zoumana Waonogo, also saw members of the presidential guard fire into the air in an effort to stop protesters from advancing toward the presidential palace.  He says one young man was shot in the head.

A government spokesman has said the proposed amendment is being withdrawn, and state television made the same announcement.  The state channel was later observed to go off the air.

63-year-old Compaore has ruled Burkina Faso since seizing power in a 1987 coup. In 2005, a constitution was ratified limiting the number of terms a president may spend in office. Compaore’s current term would be his last under the terms of the constitution unless a constitutional amendment is agreed (see P11). Opposition parties had objected to this effort to extend his term.

Several thousand protesters had marched through the capital on Wednesday, the day after street battles erupted during a mass rally by hundreds of thousands of people.

“We did this because Blaise was trying to stay too long. We are tired of him,” said Seydou Kabre, a protester in the crowd headed to the prime minister’s office. “We want a change. He must go!”

The situation is being closely watched across Africa where at least four heads of state are preparing or considering similar changes to stay in power, from Burundi to Benin and the Democratic Republic of Congo.