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Washington watching political turmoil for ally Burkina Faso – Part 1

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    There was a major shift in power today in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, as that country's strongman leader, a U.S. ally who had been in power almost three decades, fled the country.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    There was cheering on the streets of Burkina Faso's capital, after President Blaise Compaore agreed to step down, 27 years after he seized power in a coup.

    In a written statement, he called for free and transparent elections within three months. Then, he left the city, apparently heading toward neighboring Ghana. Mass demonstrations had erupted in recent days against Compaore's attempt to seek another term.

    Yesterday, mobs stormed the parliament building and set it aflame, leaving windows shattered and burned-out cars. With word of the resignation today, the head of the military announced he would assume power, for now.

  • NABERE TRAORE, Transitional President, Burkina Faso (through interpreter):

    People of Burkina Faso, today, the armed forces have noted the resignation of the head of state. It has been decided that I will take on the responsibilities as head of state. We expect to hold without delay consultations with all the vital forces and the components of the nation, with a view to return to normal constitutional life.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The turmoil is being closely watched in Washington because Burkina Faso holds a strategic place in a turbulent region. It's been a U.S. military ally hosting a base used by American drones to track insurgents. To the north lies Mali, a hub for al-Qaida-linked militants, and to the east Nigeria, where the Islamist Boko Haram is creating havoc.

    The ultimate outcome in Burkina Faso may also raise questions about the durability of other longstanding rulers in Africa.

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