Bruno Jaffré thinks the situation in Burkina Faso is getting serious

Bruno Jaffré writes:

L’ambiance est délétère et plus la crise s’approfondit plus la colère gronde. Alors qu’il suffirait que Blaise Compaoré respecte la constitution, comme il a juré de le faire, par le passé, qu’il accepte d’organiser les élections sans se présenter lui-même pour que la situation se calme et que le pays retrouve sa sérénité et que le Burkina puisse enfin engager le débat sur son modèle de développement pour les années à venir.

I don’t know.  Seems like the same evidence could be read the other way, that 15 years ago in Burkina Faso a truth-seeking journalist could be killed, now the regime cannot even bust up the car of a journalist without it making front page news in all the social media and traditional media.

The paradox of the whole situation is that the top two opposition leaders (Zepherin Diabré and Roch Marc Christian Kaboré) were in previous Compaoré governments (finance minister and speaker of parliament), and the radical opposition, the Sankarists, have very little electoral support, and well, Blaise also of course was a Sankarist and Sankara’s best friend.  So in many ways this is a very intra-elite dispute.  There is no real social force or social movement evident on the ground.  The Balai Citoyen is trying to build itself into that kind of movement, and maybe it will be capable of exercising influence next year, but it doesn’t seem able to this year.

If I were Blaise, I guess I would be doing exactly what he is doing.  There seems to be no benefit to him or his clan from announcing today that he is not going to run, and it would unleash a very long transition all the way to November 2015.  So why not dawdle and draw things out until June 2015?  He can keep acting like “it is the people’s decision” and procrastinate.

Two things could happen in his favor, of course.  Mali or Cote d’Ivoire could implode again, and then he might say, “look only I have experience to handle this situation,” or the opposition itself might implode in which case he might easily win a referendum to amend the constitution even without any fraud.  Normal people I speak to in Burkina Faso are well aware of the trade-off between a president they really do not like, and the instability that can come from a messy transition.

A united opposition needs to keep the message focused not on Blaise’s past misdeeds (which are 15 years old and were still fresh when opposition leaders were in the government) but rather on the likely future: even with a stable Blaise non-fraudulent victory, that just pushes the eventual messy alternance down the road by a couple years.  Best to insist on alternance now, if you are a citizen.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
This entry was posted in Politics. Bookmark the permalink.