Burkina president says country needs new constitution

Burkina Faso Interim President Michel Kafando attends the Summit of ECOWAS heads of state and government in Abuja on December 15, 2014 (AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Paris (AFP) - Burkina Faso President Michel Kafando said Tuesday it was essential that the country's new leaders, to be elected in October, draft a new constitution and submit it for referendum.

"It is absolutely necessary that there is a change in the constitution" and that the text be put to the people in a referendum, Kafando said in an interview with AFP during a visit to France.

The president, appointed as interim head of state following the tumultuous fall of the long-serving Blaise Compaore in October, also denied rumours that voting for the new government will be postponed.

He said the parliamentary and presidential elections will be held as planned on October 11, and that the transition period will not be prolonged.

"We are keeping the October 11 date," he said.

Given the duration of the transition, which will end with the elections, Kafando said he does not expect the process of drafting a new constitution to be easy.

"A constitution assumes there's a constituent assembly to propose, deliberate and pass the text. And it also assumes that we submit it for referendum.

"But we will encourage those who come (to power) to continue down this path," he said.

Kafando, a career diplomat, was appointed interim president of the western African country in November after Compaore, who had been in power for 27 years, was chased from office.

Kafando will not be able to seek election in October.

"Everybody involved in the transition, the government and the transitional council will be excluded from the next election," said Kafando.

"It's crystal clear and we accepted it from the start."

For the 72-year-old former diplomat, the fall of Compaore shows that "there is too much focus on personality in the political system (in Burkina Faso)."

"We need to get to a constitution that tempers the power of the head of state. It's the only way, with a balance of power, to contain exaggerated ambitions and adventures like the ones we have seen," he said.