Burkina Faso traders riot over army looting

Sat Apr 16, 2011 3:27pm GMT
 

By Mathieu Bonkoungou,

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Hundreds of traders rioted and set fire to the headquarters of Burkina Faso's ruling party on Saturday, protesting after mutinous soldiers looted their shops.

Merchants ransacked the National Assembly, the Trade Ministry and other public buildings in the capital of the West African state, a Reuters witness said.

"We are angry at the soldiers who have looted our stores, and also at the government that is doing nothing to stop the looting," said Abdoulaye, who declined to give his second name.

"Among us are people who have lost everything ... and do not even know yet whether they will be reimbursed. We're fed up," said the trader, who sells mobile phones.

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore sacked his government, army chief and head of presidential security on Friday after soldiers took to the streets demanding the payment of promised bonuses.

The Defence Ministry announced a countrywide curfew from 7 p.m. on Saturday to 6 a.m. on Sunday, while former colonial ruler France warned its citizens not to travel to the country.

"The situation in Burkina Faso, especially Ouagadougou, is currently marked by tension due to the soldiers' protest," the French Foreign Ministry said, adding that travellers also faced an increased risk of highway robbery and kidnapping.

Burkina Faso has been under Compaore's tight rule since he took power in a 1987 coup and has so far avoided the conflicts and upheavals seen in many of its neighbours.

He won a new five-year term in office after taking 80 percent of the votes in November elections.

Tens of thousands of people marched in Ouagadougou last week against the high cost of living. The country ranks 161 out of 169 countries on the United Nations' Human Development Index, a composite measure of life quality.

Compaore agreed in March to discuss grievances within the military after violent protests by soldiers over the arrest of a colleague.

Shops, banks and petrol stations have remained shut since Thursday night when the latest mutiny broke out.

<p>President of Burkina Faso Blaise Campaore in a file photo. REUTERS/Charles Platiau</p>
 
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