Protesters stormed Burkina Faso’s parliament in Ouagadougou Thursday ahead of a vote on a government proposal that would allow President Blaise Compaoré to run for re-election despite his impending term limit, reports said. Initially, police fired into the air in a bid to disperse the crowds, but were forced to give way as they charged into the parliament building.
“We did this because Blaise was trying to stay too long,” a protester told Reuters. “We are tired of him. We want a change. He must go.”
The violent protests left city hall and the nation’s ruling party’s headquarters in flames, the BBC reports. Protesters were also seen burning government documents and destroying computer equipment. Government forces allegedly fired tear gas into the crowds to halt their bid to seize parliament.
Burkina Faso government officials were set to vote on a measure that would change the country’s constitution to allow Compaoré, 63, to stay in office. Reports have suggested that the proposal was withdrawn in light of Thursday’s events, but they have yet to be confirmed. The amendment would likely have passed if a vote was held, Al-Jazeera reports.
Touting Marxist ideals, Compaoré seized control of Burkina Faso’s government through a coup in 1987 and became an autocratic ruler, Agence France-Presse reports. He has won four elections under questionable circumstances since 1991. Compaoré purportedly earned more than 80 percent of the vote in elections held in 1998, 2005 and 2010.
Compaoré is an ally of the United States and France, the latter of which conducts military operations against local militants out of Burkina Faso. However, the European Union and France have each stated their opposition to the extension of Compaoré’s presidency.