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Burkina Faso Reaches Deal on Transition, Civilian Handover

Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida meets with opposition leaders in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, Nov. 2, 2014.

It has been two weeks since what many in Burkina Faso are calling the “revolution” that pushed out longtime president Blaise Compaore.

The military, politicians and civil society have finally agreed on the framework for a transition. The next step is to choose the interim civilian president, a process that local analysts say could take at least a week.

In Ouagadougou, there was joy and sighs of relief when the charter for the transition passed late Thursday after a week of haggling — a "game of ping-pong” to quote one opposition leader.

The charter is being celebrated as a compromise that bodes well for the months ahead.

The military bent to demands from civil society and opposition politicians. There will be a 90-member National Transition Council that has legislative powers and is led by a civilian.

That council’s seats will go to 30 opposition politicians, 25 soldiers, 25 civil society members and 10 representatives of the ex-ruling party. Acting president Lieutenant Colonel Yacouba Issac Zida must now sign the charter, which is expected by Monday.

Zida declared himself head of state two weeks ago when Blaise Compaore stepped down. Compaore, who had been in power for 27 years, fled the country after four days of street protests against his efforts to change the constitution and run for another term.

Members of his government are ineligible for posts during the transition. The charter also stipulates that those who "openly supported" Compaore's efforts to change the constitution cannot sit on the National Transition Council.

Zida has agreed to hand over power to an interim civilian president who will appoint a 25-member government.

Leaving the vote Thursday, Zida said they have supported handing over to a civilian since the beginning but that leader should not be a politician.

"If it is a politician, we don’t have the guarantee that when it comes to organizing elections," he said. "This politician wouldn’t work in favor of his party.

“We want this to be someone impartial and chosen by consensus,” he added.

Once Zida signs the charter, the country will convene a 23-member panel to choose the president. It will include eight religious and traditional leaders. The other 15 seats will be divided equally among the military, the opposition and civil society.

Spokesman for a civil society coalition, Luc Ibriga, says the religious and traditional leaders will not propose any names. The other three groups can each propose three civilians. He says the panel will narrow that list of nine names down to three. Those three will be called in to make their cases and the panel will then pick one. There will not be a vote, he says.

The interim president will then be tasked with leading the country to elections in November 2015. The interim president and members of his government cannot run in that election. Nor can the head of the National Transition Council.