The White House said Thursday it was “deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation” in Burkina Faso, as protests turned violent over a bid to extend President Blaise Compaore’s 27-year rule.
Protests have erupted in the West African nation’s capital of Ouagadougou after members of parliament were set to vote on changing the country’s constitution to allow Compaore to again stand for reelection. According to the BBC, demonstrators set fire to the parliament building, city hall and ruling party headquarters, shuttered the nation's primary airport and are marching on the presidential palace.
Compaore took power in a 1987 coup. Opposition parties upset over the way he seized power boycotted his reelection contest in 1991, when only a quarter of voters turned out to the polls.
A constitutional amendment passed in 2000 limits presidents to two terms, but a constitutional council allowed Compaore to stand for reelection in 2005 because he was a sitting president at the time the amendment was ratified. In the same ruling, the council said that 2005 would be the last time Compaore could seek office. But loyalists in the Burkina Faso parliament are seeking to change the constitution to remove the term limits.
The White House appeared to condemn that effort in a statement from National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.
“We believe democratic institutions are strengthened when established rules are adhered to with consistency,” Meehan said. “We call on all parties, including the security forces, to end the violence and return to a peaceful process to create a future for Burkina Faso that will build on Burkina Faso’s hard-won democratic gains.”