What does the election of Roch Marc Christian Kaboré to be President of Burkina Faso mean?

I love it when pundits write opinion pieces purporting to “explain” what something means, when they often have little or no idea, or they just copy what everyone else says.  So in that spirit, I offer three “anti- it means this” reflections.

  1. There could be more, or less, corruption!  Kaboré was associated with the Compaoré government (the previous regime) for all of his political career, as were his co-defectors Salif Diallo and Simon Compaoré.  Kaboré served in several ministerial positions, including as Prime Minister, and was head of the national assembly, and also head of ex-President Compaoré’s government.  If anyone knew about corruption in Burkina Faso, and did very little about it, apparently, it would be Kaboré.  Corruption is often alleged to be massive, though the accusers rarely seem to know of an actual case.  Kaboré is an ex-banker, so corruption could get really big because surely he knows more tricks of the trade.
  2. There could more, or less, political instability! I defer to Thomas Flores and Irfan Nooruddin, political scientists, who have work on the “backsliding” that follows an election intended to promote or restore democracy.  They also have a research project measuring technocrats (which Kaboré certainly is), and their effects on outcomes (they do better vis-a-vis international lenders).  The bottom line I think is that is that the literature is in its infancy.
  3. Ethnicity, you ask? For sure, plenty of minority ethnic groups such as the Bisa are going to be grumbling that they will not be able to win in Burkina’s strong presidential system because too many Mossi will vote ethnically in a knee jerk way when confronted with candidates who basically have similar platforms and backgrounds (as Kaboré and Diabré did).  Will that lead to resignation or activism?

Let me add: I am full of admiration for the brave young men and women who stood up to the Compaoré security forces in the popular uprising.  They deserved this election, and they deserve a participatory and inclusive democracy that prioritizes sustainable and equitable growth.  It is a hopeful day for the country.  Uh oh, I’m starting to sound like a pundit.

About mkevane

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