Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore has resigned following violent protests at his attempt to extend his 27-year rule.
Blaise Compaore issued a statement saying the presidency was now vacant and urging elections within 90 days.
Military chief General Honore Traore said he had taken over as head of state “in line with constitutional measures”.
Crowds danced and cheered in the capital, Ouagadougou, after Blaise Compaore’s resignation was broadcast.
On October 30, protesters angry at his attempt to amend the constitution had set fire to parliament and government buildings.
Blaise Compaore had earlier vowed to remain in power until a transitional government completed its work in 2015, although he had agreed not to seek another term.
President Blaise Compaore has resigned following violent protests at his attempt to extend his 27-year rule
However, the opposition continued to demand that he resign – a key leader, Zephirin Diabre, urged protesters to occupy public spaces.
Blase Compaore’s statement, read on television, said: “In order to preserve the democratic gains, as well as social peace, I declare a power vacuum to allow the establishment of a transition leading to free and fair elections within a maximum of 90 days.”
He added: “For my part, I think I have fulfilled my duty.”
His whereabouts now remain unclear.
However, Reuters news agency reported that a heavily armed convoy believed to be carrying Blaise Compaore was travelling towards the southern town of Po.
France welcomed the resignation, saying it “allows a solution to be found to the crisis”.
In a statement, Gen. Honore Traore said: “In line with constitutional measures, and given the power vacuum… I will assume as of today my responsibilities as head of state.”
He added: “I undertake a solemn engagement to proceed without delay with consultations with all parties in the country so as to start the process of returning to the constitutional order as soon as possible.”
Late on Thursday, Gen. Honore Traore had announced the creation of the transitional government, declared the dissolution of parliament and imposed a night curfew.
Blaise Compaore was a young army officer when he seized power in 1987, a taciturn man who became known as Beau Blaise – good looking Blaise. The nickname did not necessarily suggest he was popular. Many blamed him for the death of his predecessor, the charismatic revolutionary Thomas Sankara, who was killed by soldiers in mysterious circumstances.
Controversy would be a perpetual feature of Beau Blaise’s time in power. The president was accused of stoking rebellions around West Africa. Yet over time Blaise Compaore oversaw a transformation of his image, internationally at least. This inflammatory figure became a man relied upon to put out fires around the region.
Blaise Compaore won a series of elections, though the opposition always complained the odds were stacked dramatically in his favor. He largely followed the economic orthodoxy prescribed by international financial institutions. But Burkina Faso did not escape the poverty trap. It remains one of the least developed countries in the world.
Burkina Faso army has announced emergency measures – including the formation of a transitional government – after a day of violent protests.
Protesters angered by President Blaise Compaore’s bid to extend his 27-year rule earlier set fire to parliament and government buildings.
Protesters in the capital, Ouagadougou, are calling for Blaise Campaore to resign.
The emergency moves announced by army chief General Honore Traore did not say who would lead the interim administration.
At a press conference, General Honore Traore declared the imposition of an overnight curfew, as well as the dissolution of parliament.
He announced that a “transitional body [would] be put in place in consultation with all parties”.
“A return to the constitutional order is expected in no more than 12 months,” he said.
Earlier, President Blaise Compaore issued a statement, declaring the emergency and saying that the head of the armed forces was in charge of implementing the decision.
Burkina Faso army has announced emergency measures after a day of violent protests
The protests in the capital – the most serious yet against Blaise Compaore’s rule – forced lawmakers to abandon a vote aimed at allowing the president to seek re-election in 2015.
The main opposition leader, Zephirin Diabre, told a local radio station the state of emergency was unacceptable.
“We are calling on the people to show that they are against it,” he was quoted as saying.
“The resignation of President Blaise Compaore is the only thing that can bring peace to the country.”
Zephirin Diabre said dozens of protesters had been killed across the country by the security forces.
Protesters also surged towards the presidential palace, and a government helicopter flying overhead fired tear gas at them, Reuters news agency reports.
Witnesses say dozens of soldiers have joined the protest in Ouagadougou’s main square, including a former defense minister, General Kouame Lougue.
The city hall, the homes of MPs, and an upmarket hotel in Ouagadougou were also set ablaze.
Similar protests hit the south-western city of Bobo Dioulasso, and other towns in the poor West African state.
State television went off air after protesters stormed the building housing it and ransacked it.
“A state of emergency is declared across the national territory,” the president’s statement said, as quoted by Reuters.
“The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today.
“I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change. I’m calling on the leaders of the political opposition to put an end to the protests. I’m pledging from today to open talks with all the actors to end the crisis.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, will fly to Burkina Faso on October 31 in an attempt to ease the crisis, the UN said in a statement.
Blaise Compaore first took power in a coup in 1987, and has won four disputed elections since then.
The protests forced the government to suspend Thursday’s parliamentary vote on a constitutional amendment that would have lifted the limit on presidential terms so that Blaise Compaore could run for office again in 2015.
Blaise Compaore is a staunch ally of the US and France, which uses Burkina Faso as a base for military operations against militant Islamists in the Sahel region.