Burkina Faso: The story so far #burkina #lwili

(I am just summarizing large volume of Twitter, Facebook and lefaso.net postings. Obviously impossible for me to verify, from San Jose.  But enough multiple confirmations and original footage to suggest accurate.)

Blaise Compaoré had been in power for 27 years, 31 if one counted the four years from 1983-87 when he was part of a foursome that took power in a military coup. Compaoré took full power in 1987 when Thomas Sankara, president and member of the revolutionary council, was killed. Henri Zongo and Jean-Baptiste Lingani, the two other leaders of the foursome, were killed in 1989. Compaoré continued to consolidate and try to legitimate his regime, but in 1998 Norbert Zongo, a journalist and newspaper editor who was a fierce critic of the regime, was brutally murdered. Subsequent demonstrations by civil society forced Compaoré to accept significant reforms. The reforms proved successful, in terms of minimizing threats to Compaoré’s regime. Compared with many other West African countries, relatively more freedom of press, speech, economic freedom, technocratic government, “organized” corruption, increased protection of property and investments, both for domestic and foreign firms, and encouragement of rapid urbanization through competent urban planning were basics of Compaoré regime from 2000-2014.  The regime became a textbook semi-authoritarian democracy, coopting opposition into a broad umbrella party with much contestation and change in leadership everywhere except the president.

Compaoré was term limited by revised constitution of 1991. His political party, the CDP, revised the constitution in 2012, establishing a bicameral Parliament. Compaoré would then control the Senate (through appointment of many Senators, reserved for the president) and thus have a ¾ control of Parliament and thus be able to revise the constitution again to end term limits. Opposition and civil society mobilized strongly against the Senate, and even though elections were held for Senate, it was never sworn in or opened. Compaoré then realized that a deal with another political party, the ADF-RDA , would give him ¾ control of National Assembly. In mid-October, Compaoré’s party announced they would move ahead with constitutional project to end term limits for Compaoré. The CDP announced the vote would be held October 30, 2014. Opposition and civil society mobilized. There were increasingly large demonstrations on October 27, 28 and 29.

On the morning of October 30, demonstrators broke through barricades after army decided not to fire. The National Assembly was ransacked, as were other government buildings and homes of Compaoré loyalists. When demonstrators tried to get to Kosyam, the presidential palace, they were fired upon by element of the RSP (Presidential guard). Compaoré announced he would end efforts to change the constitution. But overnight, army elements decided to withdraw support for Compaoré. Army chief of staff Nobere Traoré declared he was head of state. Later in evening, Lt. Col. Yacouba Zida, of RSP, announced he was head of state. Compaoré again addressed public saying he was still president. In morning demonstrators massed again.

On October 31, Zida consolidated his power and Traoré was either placed under guard or agreed to have Zida be head of state. Zida announced his consolidation of power. Leaders of Balai Citoyen, a civic movement that had been leading youth in the demonstrations, announced they were favorable to a Zida transitional presidency. On October 31 in the afternoon, opposition parties announced that the military should not assume the presidency. Compaoré fled the country (he apparently drove off in a large caravan of SUV and then was transported by helicopter to Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire). The RSP had to have assisted or enabled his departure. Compaoré loyalists, including the president of the National Assembly, Soungalo Ouattara, who according to the original 1991 constitution would be the head of state, appear to have gone with him. Saturday Nov 1 the opposition again met, and called for a demonstration against military rule, for Sunday Nov 2. Political discourse went back and forth. On Sunday, a large crowd gathered. Speeches were made. Eventually opposition went to meet with Zida. No comment after meeting. “Informed sources” said dialogue would continue on Monday Nov. 3.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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