News / Africa

Burkina Faso Regime Under Strain, Analysts Say

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore (file photo)
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore (file photo)
Drew Hinshaw

Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore is facing what appears to be the stiffest resistance ever to his nearly quarter-century rule of the West African nation. Analysts are seeing connections between Burkina's unrest and the revolutions sweeping the Arab world.

Hundreds of military rank-and-file, just 200 miles from this nation's capital, fired shots in the air Tuesday night, in the latest act of defiance against Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore.

West Africa's longest-serving leader, a former military officer who rose to power in a 1987 coup, President Compaore finds himself beset with an army demanding better pay and living conditions.

They aren't the only ones.  Students, civil servants, and farmers in this landlocked, aid-dependent country have staged nationwide strikes over the past six months.

In a different year those might just be routine disturbances, says political analyst David Zoumenou at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies.

But Burkina has never found itself so isolated and weak, he says. Its economic lifeline of remittances from Ivory Coast has been shredded by that country's political violence. Its other lifeline - Libyan aid - has completely vanished as that country's leader, Compaore ally Moammar Gadhafi, confronts a civil war.

"I think that if it were not happening in the completely different context of the post-Arab revolutions, I would have seen it as a routine challenge to Compaore's rule, but this time around it has gained momentum," he said.

Residents look at debris on the pavement on April 16, 2011 in Ouagadougou after soldiers from three barracks took to the streets of the Burkina Faso capital overnight, firing into the air and pillaging as a mutiny entered its third day
Residents look at debris on the pavement on April 16, 2011 in Ouagadougou after soldiers from three barracks took to the streets of the Burkina Faso capital overnight, firing into the air and pillaging as a mutiny entered its third day

Military mutinies, including an April 14 disturbance that forced the president to flee his capital, have been matched with insurrection in the country's civilian population.

Since February, students have staged regular and sometimes chaotic protests following the death of a young man in police custody.

On Tuesday, 8,000 of the country's cotton farmers began an anti-tax boycott that could further weaken a state which can hardly afford to pay its soldiers.

"Compaore has reason to be scared," says analyst James Clinton Francis at London's Eurasia Group.  But Francis says the president also has time to reform.  

He notes the country's malcontents have yet to coalesce around an opposition figure or platform.  Its students and soldiers share little ideological ground, and in many respects, Francis says, both are demonstrating for better government treatment, not for a different government.

A coup d'etat he says, is not yet a cause for concern. "But I would remain vigilant. One of the key sign posts is if student groups, trade groups, and military groups link up and protest against Compaore, I think we'll see protests reach a new level in the country, and also if they rally around an individual to sort of challenge Comapore's rule," said Francis.

Francis says it is difficult to imagine who could unite this country's fragmentary opposition sects. He adds that like many African nations which have been ruled for decades by a single leader or government, Burkina Faso has allowed little space for an opposition political party to develop.

But the same, Zoumenou says, could have been said about Egypt or Tunisia, where mass uprisings forced out dictators who had clung to power for decades.

He says Burkinabé are just waiting for a moment - a trigger, a rallying cause - to go into the streets. "Having witnessed the changes taking place in the region, I think no leader in West Africa is immune from popular protests and the challenge to their rule," said Zoumenou.

At 60 years old, Compaore finds himself isolated in his region, Francis says. Military leaders who came to power, as he did, have largely faded from West Africa's scene and long unstable countries like Ivory Coast, Guinea, or Nigeria have held their freest, fairest elections in decades.

Burkina's last election, in November, when Compaore won a fourth term with 80 percent of the vote, suffered from extremely low turnout.

Francis says that factor - Burkina Faso's apathy - may be Compaore's last strength as he governs through what could very well be his final years in office.

"There's no opposition figure or person that really can unite the people against the sitting head of state. So until that happens Compaore is sort of sitting safe, in my opinion, because there's no one to directly challenge him," he said.

Shops in the country's second largest city, Bobo-Diooulasso, stayed closed today on fears that military members would continue lootings that accompanied last night's gunfire. The country's communications minister has called the army's actions "unacceptable."

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid