Massive protest in Burkina Faso against President Compaore revising terms limits

Tens of thousands of people marched through the capital of Burkina Faso on Tuesday morning, calling for President Blaise Compaore to abandon plans to hold a referendum on changing term limits to allow him to stay in power. -- PHOTO: AFP
Tens of thousands of people marched through the capital of Burkina Faso on Tuesday morning, calling for President Blaise Compaore to abandon plans to hold a referendum on changing term limits to allow him to stay in power. -- PHOTO: AFP

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people marched through the capital of Burkina Faso on Tuesday morning, calling for President Blaise Compaore to abandon plans to hold a referendum on changing term limits to allow him to stay in power.

Protesters marched through the heart of the capital, Ouagadougou, where many businesses closed their shutters in anticipation of the protest. A Reuters witness said the march was peaceful and the police presence was light.

Tuesday marks the start of a campaign of civil disobedience announced by opposition parties after the government asked the National Assembly to approve a referendum on changing the constitution to allow Compaore to stand for re-election next year, when he is due to stand down.

"The people have decided to start a general popular resistance. The first grievance is to get the withdrawal, pure and simple, of this legal project," Zephirin Diabre, head of the opposition delegation, told the crowd.

Protesters chanted "Step aside!" and "Don't touch Article 37", referring to the clause in the constitution that needs changing to allow Compaore, who has been in power for 27 years, to stand again next year.

After clogging the city centre, protesters are gathering at the central Place de la Nation, where opposition leaders are due to address the crowds.

Compaore has positioned himself as a key leader in West Africa, where he has mediated in regional conflicts and is an important ally of Western nations in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists.

But the move to change the constitution has divided the country, which remains one of the world's poorest despite being a top regional cotton producer and home to a fledgling gold industry.