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Burkina Faso military retains powerful posts in new cabinet

24 November 2014, 08:05

Ouagadogou - Burkina Faso's new interim government will hold its first meeting Monday, with the military retaining powerful posts three weeks after the army took over in the wake of a popular revolt.

Military strongman Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida will remain prime minister and also take the defence minister post, officials said Sunday.

The military will likewise have control of the interior ministry, announced Alain Thierry Ouattara, the new government secretary general.

In all, four military members are included in the 26-member cabinet. Interim civilian President Michel Kafando will double up as foreign minister.

Kafando, a former diplomat, took office on Friday to steer the west African nation for a transitional 12-month period after veteran president Blaise Compaore was toppled in a wave of popular unrest last month. The military has pledged to help bring the country back to full civilian rule.

The new government team will hold its first cabinet meeting at 10:00 am (1000 GMT) on Monday, Ouattara said.

The shape of the new government was initially expected to be unveiled on Thursday, and then Saturday, but was repeatedly held up by differences between the rival parties.

One source said the delay was caused by the army's opposition to several ministerial candidates proposed by civil society groups.

Despite the civilian shift with Kafando becoming president, the military's control of the security services means army officers will remain a powerful political force.

Some civil society representatives have voiced concern over Zida's appointment, and some residents of Ouagadougou called it a betrayal of their "revolution".

No opposition figures are among the members of the new interim cabinet.

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This was by choice, as no one on the new executive will be permitted to stand in next year's elections.

Both Kafando and Zida are similarly barred from standing in the elections, scheduled to be held in November next year, under the transition deal.

But, a diplomat said: "Make no mistake, it's (Zida) who will lead the country."

"This is a government of technicians, we didn't expect anything else," said senior opposition figure Ablasse Ouedraogo.

Another politician, who asked not to be named, said the interim executive would not have time for political battles.

"We expect them to put the country back on its feet through hard work," he said.

Zida, 49, was appointed premier by Kafando on Wednesday, three weeks after longtime leader Compaore fled the country under pressure from mass protests.

Chosen after negotiations between political parties, the army and civil society, Kafando has emphasised his "humility" as a figure entrusted with "power that belongs to the people".

Kafando has pledged he will not let his landlocked nation of 17 million people become a "banana republic".

He vowed to punish those responsible for excesses during the 27-year rule of Compaore, who was close to slain Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi and Liberian warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor, currently jailed for war crimes.

"We will settle accounts with all those who have abused justice and who think they can syphon off public funds," Kafando said.

"The message of the people is clear and we have heard it," he said. "No more injustice, no more chaos, no more corruption."

Compaore, meanwhile, flew in to Morocco Friday on a visit from Ivory Coast, where he fled after his long rule was ended on October 31 by a popular uprising against a constitutional change that could have enabled him to stay in power.

Under intense international pressure, and the threat of sanctions if the military retained the post of head of state, an agreement was thrashed out to work towards elections in November 2015.

Burkina Faso notably exports cotton and gold, but almost half the population lives on less than a dollar a day and many are subsistence farmers.

Every change of regime in the country has been triggered by a coup since independence from France in 1960, when it was called Upper Volta.

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