It was at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington that Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore delivered remarks on security and peace in West Africa, as well as the challenges that lie ahead. The president, who comes from a French speaking country, drew laughter from the crowd as he told them he wished he could address them instead in English.
Mr. Compaore said from east to west and from north to south, Africa has seen its share of conflicts. He said what’s even more important than solving conflicts is keeping them from happening.
“Prevention [means] creating an environment of trust between the population and their governments. It’s that trust that will allow us to better handle emerging conflicts down the road,” he noted.
He also said the only way to achieve world peace is through dialogue. But it can only bear fruit when parties are willing to work together – adding “dialogue can have results only if there is trust in the first place. Going to the negotiating table in good faith means [that both sides are] able to accept compromise; that is to say, not wanting everything for yourself and nothing for the other party.”
Mr. Compaore, who’s visiting Washington ahead of the 68th
United Nations General Assembly, is known for the role he’s played as a mediator in many African countries, including Cote D’Ivoire, Mali and Guinea.
He’s been in power since 1987 and – according to law -- is serving his last term, which ends in 2015. Opponents ask if he will abide by the term limits set by his country’s constitution?
His answer: “I’ve always respected the constitution. You know 2015 is a long way away, and I am more [focused] on the success of the programs I’ve been working on before the end of my term. That’s why I am not going to participate in a pre-debate about a future candidacy or succession.”
The opposition is concerned about some of his projects, like the creation of a senate, which they say is not necessary. But Mr. Compaore dismissed his critics saying, “the opposition doesn’t have a majority in the parliament in order to allow them to modify it, and they are only playing politics.”
He also addressed recent tensions between Kenya and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It is trying Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto for their alleged involvement in post-election violence that left hundreds dead in 2008. Critics say the court is biased because its cases so far have focused on Africa. They urge African countries to withdraw from the ICC. Mr. Compaore says Africans should sit down and have a frank discussion about the issue.
In his view, “African leaders were the ones who signed on to be part of it in the beginning. I believe the talk should center on either giving recommendations to improve the ICC or offer adequate reasons to withdraw from it… but there is a place for the ICC in this world.”
Mr. Compaore said when the time comes to step down, he hopes he'll be remembered for his efforts to bring peace, stability and economic growth to his country.
He’s attending a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York City where he’ll participate in the discussions on some of the most pressing issues affecting Africa.