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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs