Dakar — Thousands of people took part in opposition-led rallies across Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, and in other cities throughout the country Saturday to protest potential changes to the Constitution that could allow long-time President Blaise Compaoré to run for another term in 2015.
Opposition leaders in Burkina Faso organized a "national day of protest" Saturday to demand that President Blaise Compaoré step aside and not make any revisions to the Constitution regarding presidential term limits.
The turnout was the largest the country has seen in decades, and remained peaceful.
The leader of the protest marches, Zephirin Diabre, said it is time for the president to listen to what the people want.
He says that they scheduled this march to bring about change. They want President Compaoré to take notice that the citizens are demanding that he abandon his plans to revise Article 37 of the Constitution and to establish the Senate, he says. Only then can the country open a new chapter in the future of politics and democracy in the country, he says.
Article 37 of the Constitution currently mandates that a president not serve more than two five-year terms.
President Compaoré first came to power in a 1987 coup. After he served two seven-year terms, the Constitution was changed in 2000 allowing him to serve two additional five-year terms. His last term in office under the current Constitution is set to come to an end next year.
While Compaoré has made no official statement regarding plans to run in the upcoming presidential election scheduled for November 2015, the opposition says that his getting parliament to approve creation of a new Senate last year, indicates he is likely to seek changes to the Constitution that could let him run again. But, so far the new Senate exists only on paper.
Opposition member Rock Marc Christian Kaboré, who is a former president of the National Assembly and one-time leader of President Compaoré's ruling party, said the country will not let history repeat itself.
He says it is quite evident that, more and more, the people of Burkina Faso are realizing that something must change. He says they are now calmly taking a stand to guard the social peace and unity of the Burkinabé people in order to preserve everything that has so far been acquired in terms of the country's development.
Following the rallies, the government issued a statement saying that they have taken note of the protester's expectations and that they continue to remain willing to engage in political dialogue.