November 13, 2014 / 10:24 PM / in 3 years

Burkina factions, army agree on make-up of transitional authority

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Military, opposition parties, civil and religious leaders on Thursday adopted a charter creating the framework for a transitional government in Burkina Faso after a popular uprising forced longtime President Blaise Compaore from power.

Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida (L) meets with opposition leader Zephirin Diabre in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, November 2, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney

The authority, which was approved unanimously, will return the West African nation to civilian rule and guide it to elections late next year.

Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida declared himself head of state on Nov. 1 after Compaore resigned and fled the country last month amid mass protests against his efforts to change the constitution to seek re-election in 2015 after 27 years in power.

The African Union last week issued Burkina Faso a two-week deadline to restore civilian rule or face possible punishment, though regional bloc ECOWAS later advised against international sanctions.

“Today was the day of compromise,” said Herve Kam, a member of the Balai Citoyen civil society group. “Both soldiers and civilians agree on a civilian transition. The institutions of the transition will be led by civilians.”

The new head of state, who will not be permitted to stand in the elections, will be chosen by a special college composed of eight religious and traditional leaders and five members each from the army, opposition and civil society.

The president will then name a prime minister to appoint a 25-member government.

The charter also calls for a 90-member national transitional council to serve as a legislative body. It will be composed of 30 opposition representatives and 25 members from both the civil society and the army.

The remaining 10 seats will go to other political parties, including members of Compaore’s former ruling coalition, which did not participate in the negotiations.

Zida, who has repeatedly pledged to hand over power to a civilian authority, is expected to enact the charter within days, participants in the talks said.

“On all the points, even where we had differences of opinion, among Burkines we have reached a consensus. We have a charter that will be promulgated very quickly,” opposition leader Zephirin Diabre said following the plan’s adoption.

Under Compaore, Burkina Faso has emerged as a regional power broker and key Western ally against Islamist militants.

France has a special forces unit and surveillance drones based there as part of a regional counter-terrorism operation.

The country, which is emerging as one of Africa’s top gold producers, also mediated crises in neighboring Mali and Ivory Coast.

Reporting by Nadoun Coulibaly and Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Dan Grebler

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