OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Burkina Faso’s powerful presidential guard should be dismantled, according to a commission charged with proposing reforms after a popular uprising toppled the West African nation’s longtime president.
The elite unit, known locally as the RSP, was a key pillar of President Blaise Compaore’s regime before mass demonstrations forced him to flee the country last October, ending 27 years of rule.
Its interference in the interim administration that followed Compaore’s ouster, including attempts to force the prime minister’s resignation of over his plans to reduce its size and pay, provoked further protests and prompted the authorities to call for a review of the RSP’s role.
In a report submitted to Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, himself a former commander in the RSP, the national reconciliation and reform commission on Monday described the 1,200 troop strong unit as “an army within an army”.
It called for the regiment to be broken up and its members redeployed within the framework of a broader reform of the military.
The commission said responsibility for ensuring the security of Burkina Faso’s president and state institutions should be conferred upon special units of the police and gendarmes.
A decision on the RSP’s future will most likely wait until after Oct. 11 elections when voters will choose a new president and parliament to restore democratic rule.
Burkina Faso’s army did not intervene to save Compaore when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the president’s attempts to push through constitutional changes to extend his rule.
However, the RSP has been accused by rights groups, including Amnesty International, of shooting and killing protesters during the uprising.
Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Christian Plumb