U.S. diplomats were pretty clear today in disapproval. Of course, the effects depend on how the message was delivered in person, and the hints of consequences to follow if the message were ignored (as seems likely, at this point). The weird thing about the whole effort by Compaoré is that not even people in Burkina Faso can really understand why he is doing this. To almost everyone, it seems like the reasonable thing to do would be to say he was not going to run again, let someone in the CDP run (and win), and then move on to the nice life of a senior international peacemaker for French West Africa. After a few years he would be a hero to 80% of Burkinabè (the rest will never forget the crimes de sang). If Compaoré were a megalomaniac, or had a Putin-like vision of himself leading a “mother Burkina,” then sure one can understand why he will not let go. But most people’s sense of him is that is is fairly disinterested in being a leader. Indeed, his public style the past ten years has been to be outside the fray and pretend he is neutral arbiter. So either he is a true master of image, or there is someone else (Chantal? Diendere? Koanda?) really pushing this.
Later on Tuesday, the U.S. issued a statement saying, “The United States emphasizes that constitutionally mandated term limits provide an important mechanism to hold heads of state accountable, ensure peaceful and democratic transfers of power, and give new generations the opportunity to compete for political office and elect new leaders.”
The political crisis spilled out onto the streets on Tuesday in a campaign of civil disobedience called by opposition parties who want to prevent the referendum being held. Hours later, the U.S. State Department said it was “concerned by the spirit and intent behind” the proposed changes that would allow Compaore, who has been in power for 27 years, to run for election in 2015, when he is meant to stand down. Burkina Faso is a key U.S. ally in West Africa in the fight against al Qaeda-linked fighters operating in the Sahel-Sahara band. It also frequently mediates in regional conflicts. France, which has Special Forces troops based in the country, said on Tuesday it expected Compaore to adhere to the laws drawn up by peers at the African Union and not push through the constitutional amendments.