I believe (based on extensive previous evidence) that Burkina Faso would not be getting attacked by Al Qaeda were it not for France’s selfish decision in 2014 to deploy counterterrorism troops to the country indefinitely (and to put them up regularly at the hotel that was attacked on Friday). Burkina Faso is extremely poor and fragile, but it’s working hard to secure its fledgling democracy. Burkina Faso doesn’t bother anyone or get involved in these matters, but France used its influence to meddle and endanger everyone there. This is spreading terror, not containing it.
Previously from Arsenal For Democracy: Burkina Faso political transition coverage.
Just over a year after protesters burned down Burkina Faso’s parliament and ejected the president of 27 years, a free presidential election has, at last, been held. It went off without much of a hitch in the first round (which will be the only round this time). Here’s how it played out in the end…
The basics (France24):
Provisional results from Sunday’s election showed [Former Prime Minister] Roch Marc Kaboré won 53.5 percent of the vote to defeat former Finance Minister Zéphirin Diabré, who scored 29.7 percent, and 12 other candidates, the electoral commission said. Turnout was about 60 percent.
The good (The Economist):
Early signs are that this will be the first peaceful transfer of power since independence.
The less good:
Yet others have pointed to the ubiquity of the CDP old guard at the top despite the ruling. Mr Kaboré was a close ally of Mr Compaoré until only nine months before the latter’s overthrow and was widely regarded as the continuity candidate, despite pledging to bring about “real change”. His main presidential rival, Zéphirin Diabré, also held several ministerial posts before defecting in 2010.
“The CDP is everywhere,” says one foreign election observer. The ranks of both Mr Kaboré’s new party, the Movement of People for Progress (MPP), and Mr Diabré’s Union for Progress and Change (UPC), contain many former CDP members, and the UPC, despite three years as the country’s official opposition, enjoyed the unofficial support of what remains of Mr Compaoré’s former party in the presidential vote.
[T]here is little ideological difference between the two [leading parties in the legislature]. “All that’s changed is the name of the party,” says Daniel Eizenga, an expert on Burkinabé politics at the University of Florida.
I’m cautiously more optimistic than this, although it certainly poses risks. Why? Because as I argued last month when the voting kicked off, it’s sort of inevitable when there is single-party/one-man rule for decades that its successors will come from that background. Anyone who goes into public service ends up working for the regime at some point.
Just over a year after a street uprising and military coup ousted the longtime regime of President Blaise Compaoré — and less than two months after a short-lived, violent coup attempt against the transitional government — Burkina Faso is heading to the polls for what it hopes will be its first free presidential election after decades of strongman and military rule. It has been a bumpy ride to get to this point.
Despite a ban on ruling party candidates, France24 reports that:
Seven of the 14 candidates played important roles in the fallen regime, without backing Compaore to the end.
Sort of inevitable when there is single-party/one-man rule for decades. Anyone who goes into public service ends up working for the regime at some point. And here they are:
Roch Marc Christian Kabore and Zephirin Diabre, considered the frontrunners, are both former government ministers.
Kabore worked with Compaore for 26 years, serving as prime minister and then speaker of the National Assembly. He also ran the CDP for more than a decade, but quit the party in disgrace 10 months before Compaore was ousted.
Diabre, an economist, long opted for an international career, but also served at home as minister of the economy and finance. He also joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from Compaore.
Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.
Topics: The Future of Wages; Burkina Faso shakes off a coup; emerging movements in the Republican and Democratic presidential races. People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: September 13th and October 4th, 2015.
Episode 145 (56 min):
– What is the future of living wage laws?
– What can Burkina Faso’s resistance to a coup tell us about transitions to democracy in poor countries today?
– Can anyone save the Republican field from itself? Can Sanders prevail over Clinton after all?
– The Globalist (by Bill): Op-Ed: “The Future of Living Wages”
– AFD: “Short-lived Burkina Faso Coup had very little support”
– AFD: “Procedurally, GOP nomination is within Trump’s reach”
And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.
Good news: Not only did the regular Army quickly intervene to eject the Presidential Guard and restore the democratic transition, compelling the putsch leader to apologize publicly (also admitting a serious unforced error that will likely doom the Guard to demobilization) and surrender, but also the people of Burkina Faso very broadly and decisively rejected the coup.
This is explored in Brian J. Peterson’s analysis at African Arguments entitled “After the coup in Burkina Faso: unity, justice, and dismantling the Compaoré system”:
Among civil society, there was no pro-coup faction to speak of, aside from reports of a few fake protesters (identified as RSP members in plainclothes). Even Diendéré’s own home village turned against him. Aside from the labour unions, the grassroots movement Balai Citoyen, the youth, traditional leaders (such as chiefs, hunters associations, and the Moro Naba), and the heralded broom- and spatula-wielding women, all rallied to the cause of opposing the coup.
(Additionally, not one political party besides the pro-Compaoré party supported it.)
The way in which the people and the transitional government handled this worst of all political nightmares on the eve of an election should give the Burkinabé people greater confidence in their belief that they can shape their country’s destiny. Through this whole process, the people have also discovered a newfound courage to speak their minds.
The Burkinabe Presidential Guard has just detained (kidnapped) the president and the entire cabinet of Burkina Faso in front of journalists. The country is less than one month away from elections but the interim cabinet had discussed abolishing the Guard because it was dangerous. This could be coup #3 of the past year. (If confirmed, it would be the 8th to succeed since independence.)
Update: More info…
There was no immediate claim by the military on public air waves that they now controlled the country.
News of the standoff Wednesday created panic in Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou, where people closed shops early and headed home fearing violent demonstrations. The protests that led to President Blaise Compaore’s ouster escalated to a point where the parliament building was set ablaze.
The prime minister initially had threatened to disband the [presidential guard] back in December but later reversed course. Then on Monday, a truth and reconciliation commission released a report calling for the disbanding of the unit. Human rights groups have accused the regiment of opening fire on unarmed demonstrators last October, when massive protests forced Compaore to resign.
See also our extensive archives on Burkina Faso political analysis.
Update II: Presidential Guard troops fired as protesters confronted them over their arrest of the civilian government.
Update III, 9/17/15, 4:29 AM ET: An officer has announced a coup and plans for a “national democracy council” to organize “democratic and inclusive elections.” The overthrown transitional civilian government was already wrapping up preparations for democratic elections next month but they were not “inclusive” in the sense that they excluded many people affiliated with the regime overthrown less than a year ago. The coup leaders are likely representing just 1,300 troops in the renegade Presidential Guard and very few people beyond that (except perhaps some allies of the former regime).
Burkina Faso’s post-coup transition to democracy is, theoretically, still on track to be completed by October. However, as the AFP reports, there is nearly constant tension between the hated Presidential Guard and its former number-two, the Military Prime Minister Isaac Zida.
A month ago, Zida claimed to have averted their plot to overthrow him in a coup, but it’s unclear how true that was. They did unsuccessfully publicly try to pressure him to resign earlier in the year. (Either way, the militarists of one stripe or another already have a huge seat at the table in this transition, even without any new coup.)
What little popular support Zida had left, inside or outside of the military, seems to have evaporated when he attempted to promote himself from Lieutenant Colonel to General (after, of course, having “promoted” himself to Acting President by force last year and then getting himself named Interim Prime Minister).
President Michel Kafando, the nominal civilian head of the transition, has been increasingly marginalized (unsurprisingly, given Zida’s presence) and can only issue plaintive appeals for calm and restraint in the coming 3 months.
West Africa’s regional bodies and leaders have continued to play a guiding role in Burkina Faso’s transition process wherever possible, as they did from the start, but this has caused its own bumps. New legislation setting the rules for participating in the country’s planned first democratic elections in October was struck down on July 13 by the ECOWAS Court of Justice because it excluded many people and parties closely affiliated with the Blaise Compaoré regime ousted last fall.
The regional court ruled that the exclusion’s basis — whether or not a politician or party had supported Compaoré’s failed attempt to amend the constitution to remove term limits, i.e. the move which prompted the government’s overthrow — was overly broad and was “a violation of their fundamental human rights.”
The former ruling party enthusiastically announced its nominee for the election upon reinstatement of eligibility. He proceeded to praise the ex-president whose multi-decade tenure in office ended with the national parliament building literally being burned to the ground by protesters.
At this point, it would be a near-miracle if Burkina Faso makes it through the October elections peacefully with a smooth transfer of power and no return to office for Compaoré’s old guard or the militarists. But with the transition roadmap not yet completely dead, despite many opportunities for it to have failed already, I think we can at least expect some positive outcomes, even if it’s unlikely all of those will come to pass.