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.