Interregnum a dangerous time for Burkina Faso

General Gilbert Diendéré has now almost thrown in the towel according to interview with Voice of America, but he never completely agrees, saying repeatedly, “we are in discussions.”  Pointed questions from Idriss Fall. Nice reporting.  Diendéré seems to be hoping that tomorrow’s ECOWAS summit will provide him with an out.

Army chief of staff Pingrenoma Zagré will now have an enormous influence over the remainder of the political transition.  I know nothing about his political (or other) convictions, nor how he will evaluate the underlying tensions that General Diendéré cited as justifications for his coup attempt.

Here’s some points that I presume:

  • Seems unlikely that Diendéré could remain free after himself imprisoning president, prime minister and two ministers.
  • United States embassy might give cover to Diendéré under a realist calculation that have to reinforce credibility of standing by and protecting erstwhile allies even when they commit major mistakes counter to fundamental principles of U.S. policy. I do not envy Tulinabo Mushingi’s decision: go with that realist, military reasoning, and risk a lot of popular support across West Africa that still views U.S. as being a counterweight to Francafrique.  Ideal for U.S. if they could get France to “exfiltrate” Diendéré to Cote d’Ivoire. France reputation cannot go lower, anyway.
  • With Diendéré and Compaoré both in Cote d’Ivoire, Guillaume Soro and Alassane Ouattara will have an even  bigger political headache, especially if civilian authority in Burkina is consolidated.  An extradition request for both by a legitimate government will be tricky.
  • Zagré will need to call a curfew, but too many people out on streets, high risk of course of opportunistic looting that causes confusion about control of the city during interregnum.
  • I am still somewhat surprised at inability or unwillingness of Mali jihadi’s to take advantage of 2014 and now this interregnum.  Given all the attacks in Mali, which seems to suggest they have the ability to roam quite far, you might think they would take some risks to loot banks or carjack or take hostages in northern Burkina Faso or even Ouagadougou.  The logic of desert terrain however (and their relative wealth already) maybe means marginal value of money/cars already low, and their experience with ransoming West Africans may likewise have led them to conclude not very profitable?

About mkevane

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