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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs