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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs