Burkina Faso: Protesters storm parliament over term limit vote

Protesters say 27 years in office is enough for President Blaise Compaore, who took power in a 1987 coup and has been reelected four times. A parliamentary vote on extending term limits was called off due to unrest.

Joe Penney/REUTERS
People march against Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore's plan to change the constitution to stay in power in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, October 29, 2014.

Protesters stormed Burkina Faso's parliament Thursday, dragging furniture and computers onto the street and setting the main chamber ablaze, forcing the government to cancel a vote to allow the president to seek another term next year.

Protesters swarmed other areas of the capital, Ouagadougou, and the country, setting alight several buildings and ransacking the offices of the national television station. Its broadcasts and those of the national radio went off the air.

Tension has been building for months in this West African country once known for its relative stability in a volatile region. The protesters say 27 years in power is enough for President Blaise Compaore, who took power in a coup in 1987 and has since been elected four times.

Amid the chaos Thursday, the prime minister's office issued a statement saying it was canceling the vote and calling for calm.

"'It is over for the regime!" and "We do not want him again!" shouted demonstrators when they heard that the vote had been stopped.

The bill would have amended the constitution to increase term limits and allow Compaore to run for election again next year, and the measure looked likely to pass.

Flames enveloped the main building the parliament complex, and many lawmakers, who had been inside when the protesters broke in, fled to a nearby hotel.

"I was inside when the demonstrators stormed in. I was put in secure place by security people of the parliament," said Ablasse Ouedraogo, an opposition lawmaker, who has since left the building. "Now it is difficult to say what happens next but things are out of control because the demonstrators do not listen to anyone."

Houses of ministers were also attacked, and people were looting shops in Bobo Dioulasso, the country's second-largest city, witnesses said.

Earlier, police had pushed the crowds back with tear gas, but they regrouped in larger numbers, surged past police lines and broke into the parliament building.

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