Burkina Faso’s military is currently being called upon to surrender control of the government after former president Blaise Compaoré resigned a few days ago. Compaoré’s resignation was the result of violent protests that erupted following his plans to change the constitution so he could remain in office for a longer term. He has held the presidency for 27 years at this point.
Following his forced resignation The Burkinabè army took control of the country. Originally the power vacuum was to be filled by General Honoré Traoré, but after an internal power struggle Lt Col Isaac Zida was placed in temporary command. Tensions have continued to rise as protestors fill the streets to demand that Burkina Faso be placed under civilian rule and not in military hands.
Matters escalated on Sunday when opposition leader Sara Sereme arrived at the headquarters of the national television station accompanied by a group of supporters. Shots were fired in an effort to quell the protests. Things calmed down after leaders from the opposition began talks with the military leaders. A declaration by the opposition calls for the army to return the victory to the people. The insurrection was of the people and so the result should remain in the people’s hands.
Zida has promised democratic elections, but has not given any details as to when they will take place. In the meantime he has suspended the constitution, closed the borders, and instituted a curfew. The United States and other African countries have condemned what is being called a “highjacking” of power. In a statement issued by the United States Department of State officials called for an “immediate transfer” of power describing the army as “forcing its will” on the populace. It also requested that all parties involved try to “avoid further violence.”
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It is landlocked and has experienced multiple border disagreements with its neighbors. Its government structure is parliamentary republic, which follows the constitution which was last amended in 2012. According to the constitution, after Compaoré resigned, the post should have been temporarily filled by the head of the National Assembly, however according to reports he also fled the country and the military has gotten rid of the Assembly itself.
The African Union (AU), The United States and The United Nations (UN) are all calling upon the Burkinabè army to step aside and allow the civilian population to handle the power vacuum. A spokesperson from the AU said the military had a “duty” to support “civilian authorities” and that they should be at the head of the transition from Compaoré to the next president. UN representative Mohamed Ibn Chambas said Sunday that the UN also wanted the transition to be led by civilians and be in accordance with the constitution. He said if these things did not happen the resulting consequences were “clear.”
International sentiment is that it is important that the internal structure of Burkina Faso be stabilized as soon as possible especially in the wake of Ebola cases in the region. While there have been no reported cases of Ebola in the country, there have been by its neighbors.
Burkina Faso’s military will continue to be pressured to surrender control of the government to civilian rule. The hope is that with negotiations between the military and the opposition continuing and the support and mediation of international players, a solution will be reached without more violence.
By Clara Goode
Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond –