Trouble in Burkina Faso

In the small, landlocked country of Burkina Faso, commonly referred to as simply Burkina, citizens are angry. The country’s long time president, Blaise Compaore first rose to power in 1987 after former President Sankara was mysteriously killed in a military coup while Compaore was the Minister of State. Compaore was then elected president first in 1991, then again in 1998. In 2000, the country adopted a new constitution, which included limits to the presidency, including a two-term maximum and five-year terms. After this decision, Compaore was re-elected twice, mostly due to the new constitution. In recent years, the country has experienced a growing civilian dissent, due to a rising cost of living, coupled with an economic downturn and an overall distrust of the Compaore administration by a large portion of the population.

Beginning last year, President Compaore began to make attempts at altering the newest constitution, including an amendment allowing him to serve yet another tem, extending his 27 year reign in Burkina. There was an immediate response from varied sectors of the population, uniting into protests, which reached a breaking point today, when politicians were set to vote on the amendment to extend Compaore’s term. Protests had been growing violent leading up to today, with strict security cordons in place around the main parliament buildings, with tear gas and live rounds fired into the air being used to attempt to disperse the crowds. As the rioting intensified, a state spokesperson issued a statement “delaying” the vote on the amendment, in an attempt to appease the angry swarms of protestors. Things began to rapidly collapse as protesters were able to breach into the state broadcast headquarters, and began to attempt to force their way into other government buildings. By early afternoon, protesters had stormed the main Parliament building, and subsequently torched its main chambers. The scene continued to spiral out of control, as nearby homes, which housed key government and military figures were ransacked and torched as well. By late afternoon, a state of emergency had been declared, and with an increasing call for Compaore’s removal, interim authority was declared as Compaore’s stated “I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change”. Gen. Honoré Nabéré Traoré, the chief of staff  for Burkina Faso’s armed forces stated that an interim government would be created in the wake of these protests, and promised elections within 12 months, although who exactly will form this interim government are not yet known. This situation is continuing and Burkina Faso faces a very long and difficult road to stability, with protests continuing into the night, despite a military curfew due to the declared state of emergency.

But what does this matter to the rest of Africa, and the international community? As we have discussed in class, will there be intervention and/or aid from the international community? If this interim government can not keep the country in order, will a civil war between todays protestors and supporters of President Compaore? While it is not certain that this is a likely outcome, this situation is still very volatile, with a very angry population, and the country currently on lockdown. This scene is all too common in recent history, with the Arab Spring revolutions throughout the Middle East and other regions, so will we experience more of these protests turned revolutions? Nothing can be set in stone at the moment, but this is definitely a story to keep our eyes on.

Sources:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29840100

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/10/30/burkina-faso-parliament.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/31/world/africa/burkina-faso-protests-blaise-compaore.html?_r=0

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9 thoughts on “Trouble in Burkina Faso

  1. This development is very interesting and intense. If the people aren’t appeased soon there will likely be more violent conflict and perhaps even a civil war. The international community likely would intervene but to what extent, that isn’t clear.

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    • It takes more than just a tumultuous situation in a country to cause a civil war. There have to be parties involved who have the means and the opportunity to wage a civil war against one another. In Ukraine, the riots and protests that eventually brought down the government did not lead directly to the civil war. In fact, the original protesters did not end up fighting against the government or the military, but assumed control over the military and ended up fighting against another group entirely. I don’t fully understand the situation in Burkina, admittedly, but I don’t see any clear organization as yet that could lead to one group fighting another. As it stands, this could just be a military coup, rather than a brewing civil war.

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  2. It would be very interesting to observe how international community (E.g. UN) or even regional organizations (E.g. African Union) would respond. Will there be a conflict mediation taking place? And how will the conflict in turn impact the regional integration or stability? Will it become something like the Arab Spring, with nearby countries overthrowing dictators, or could the conflict be limited inside 1 country only?

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  3. altering constitution in order to keep the presidency is definitely showing the side of dictatorship. Similar case also have happened in South Korea’s first president years which was around 1950s. but in this case, the president had to resign after 12 years of ruling because of the protest from citizens. This was all greatly done without any intervention of other international organization. I say sometimes interventions are not always necessary.

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    • Both the current situation in Burkina Faso and what you describe in South Korea during the 1950s bear similiarities to the overthrow of Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali in 2011 at the height of the Arab Spring when demand for more freedoms across the Middle East seemed insatiable and the possibilities endless. The international intervention that defined the toppling of the Gaddafi regime in neighboring Libya skipped Tunisia and the violence and grievances that marked the end of the Mubarak regime and the beginning of the Morsi presidency in Egypt were also absent from the post-revolution Tunisian political process. Tunisia has been hailed as one of the few (if not the only) success stories of the Arab Spring in the sense that the transition from autocracy to democracy has occurred relatively smoothly. However, some would argue that all is not what it appears in Tunisia. For example, while there is a free democratic process, many of the issues that catalyzed the revolution in Tunisia (in turn facilitating the Arab Spring itself) have not abated, including high youth unemployment. In addition, a tradition of religious suppression under Ben-Ali has sown an appetite for the inclusion of religion in the affairs of the state. Islamic political parties and their influence in Tunisian society have grown. Similarly, it should be noted that the highest number of foreign fighters in Syria come from Tunisia. South Korea’s experiences with dictatorship and Tunisia’s revolutionary and post-revolutionary experiences will without a doubt be beneficial to the people of Burkina Faso in the coming months and years despite the obvious circumstantial differences.

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  4. This is an interesting article. I am not surprised that this has happened in a country located in a region that has experienced so much turmoil over the course of its history. What do you think the responses of the NGO’s and IGO’s will be? Has the AU released a statement?

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  5. Great topic to write about. I am in favor of you bringing up the question will another country intervene, any interest for those countries. I do not know much about this country, but only others will intervene if there is some sort of interest. Like in class, if another country intervenes, because of IO or NGO influence, will they be doing it for territory or economic improvement? Will NGO’s and IO’s even care about this situation, because if the situation does not benefit them reputably or financially, then the likely hood of IO or NGO influence is rare.

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  6. I think that there will be intervention by international organization, but I hope not because the people have to understand the value of election and constitution. However,intervention will not have enough time and money to teach the value. Therefore, even though international community intervenes to the conflict, and support new president, in near feature the same thing will happen.

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