Soldiers hit an anti-government protester with a stick in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Oct. 30. Burkina Faso's Catholic bishops sent a "message of peace and hope" to the West African country after its 27-year president, Blaise Compaore, fled prompting a mi litary takeover. CNS photo/Joe Penney, Reuters

Burkina Faso bishops urge return of civilian rule

By  Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic News Service
  • November 5, 2014

OXFORD, England - Burkina Faso's Catholic bishops sent a "message of peace and hope" to the West African country after its 27-year president, Blaise Compaore, fled prompting a military takeover.

"At this precise moment of our history, we unite ourselves with the grief of weeping families and implore divine mercy for the souls of those who lost their lives in the demonstrations," the 16 bishops said in a statement after their scheduled Nov. 3-4 meeting in the capital, Ouagadougou.

"With these events now past, people of good will have freed our streets from the scars of confrontation and violence. While saluting this civic initiative, we must also regain a legitimate national pride and work to eradicate evil and sin from our hearts and structures."

Violence flared in late October when Compaore sought constitutional changes to allow him to seek another term in office in 2015. At least 30 people died in protests, and the country's parliament and other public buildings were destroyed.

Compaore resigned Oct. 31. Agence-France-Presse reported Nov. 5 that the capital was calm.

The bishops also welcomed talks that were underway to restore the country to "normal constitutional life," but said the Church also counted on respect for "the authority of the forces of order and security" and hoped the media would rise above "partisan interests" and show "an ethic of responsibility" in its reporting.

The presidents of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal arrived in Ouagadougou Nov. 5 to press Burkina Faso's acting head of state, Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida, to ensure a rapid return to civilian rule after threats of sanctions from the United Nations and African Union.

Saying the army acted unconstitutionally when it took over after Compaore's resignation, the African Union Nov. 3 imposed a two-week deadline for Zida to step down or the country would face sanctions. Zida promised to comply with the deadline.

In a Nov. 5 interview carried by the Vatican's Fides news agency, Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou said Compaore had "underestimated the anger of a population that aspires to greater social justice" by attempting to amend the constitution. He said recent events had amounted to "a popular uprising, not a military coup," and warned that international sanctions would "further weaken Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa."

"The seizure of power by Col. Isaac Zida is not in compliance with the constitution, which provides that the transition is ensured by a civilian," Ouedraogo said.

"But one has the feeling the transitional government has given a boost to its policy. There is a willingness to dialogue with different political parties and with the civil and religious bodies in the country, to get out of the crisis as soon as possible."

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