February 7, 2015 / 5:38 PM / in 3 years

Protesters demand scrapping of Burkina Faso presidential guard

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Hundreds of people protested on Saturday in Burkina Faso calling for the dissolution of the presidential guard, a powerful unit within the military that earlier this week called for the prime minister to resign.

The military’s meddling in politics has exposed divisions within the transitional authorities due to guide Burkina Faso to elections later this year after former president Blaise Compaore was forced to step down last year amid mass protests.

After several days of crisis talks, the presidential guard, known locally as the RSP, pledged late on Friday not to interfere in the transition.

However, hundreds gathered in central Ouagadougou on Saturday demanding that the unit, which enjoyed special privileges and was better armed and trained than other military units under Compaore, be scrapped.

“We demand right now and without any conditions the dissolution of the RSP,” said Guy Herve Kam, a spokesman for the civil society organizations that organized the march.

Some in the crowds held banners reading “Threat to the republic” and “No to an army within the army. No to intimidation and threats”.

The RSP had on Wednesday called for Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, a former member of the RSP, to resign and abandon plans to reduce the unit’s size and pay.

The incident prevented a cabinet meeting from taking place and sparked warnings by United Nations and African Union officials against any interference in the country’s transition.

Transitional President Michel Kafando has called for calm and said he would create a commission to outline the future role of the unit, which was at the heart of Compaore’s power.

The fact that soldiers did not intervene to halt an uprising that toppled Compaore after 27 years in power stirred hopes of democratic change in many African countries where long-term leaders are nearing the end of their terms.

Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Stephen Powell

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