Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Burkina Faso: With or Without Compaoré, Times of Uncertainty

Source: International Crisis Group

If President Blaise Compaoré fails to manage his departure well, the country could face political upheaval in an increasingly troubled region.

In its latest report, Burkina Faso: With or Without Compaoré, Times of Uncertainty, the International Crisis Group examines the political situation in this landlocked country of the Sahel in the run-up to the 2015 presidential elections. Even if President Compaoré abides by the constitution and leaves power in 2015, the succession may still prove challenging as he has dominated the political scene for decades. This report, Crisis Group’s first on Burkina Faso, explores how domestic tensions combine with transnational factors to threaten security and stability in West Africa.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
  • During 26 years in power, President Compaoré put in place a semi-authoritarian regime, moving from a repressive military rule to a formal multiparty democratic system, but one fully controlled by the president. This enabled him to stabilise a country marked by five coups between 1960 and 1987.
  • Any attempt to amend the constitution to allow Compaoré to run for a fifth term might provoke a repeat of the 2011 popular uprisings.
  • President Compaoré has less than three years left to prepare his departure and facilitate a smooth transition. International partners, in particular Western allies, should no longer focus exclusively on Compaoré’s mediation role in Mali and the monitoring of security risks in West Africa. They should also pay close attention to domestic politics and the promotion of democratic consolidation in Burkina Faso.
  • Preserving Burkina Faso’s stability is all the more important given that the country is located at the centre of an increasingly troubled region, with the political and military crisis in neighbouring Mali possibly spilling over into Niger. 
“Burkina Faso has been spared upheaval so far thanks to its internal stability and solid security apparatus”, says Rinaldo Depagne, Crisis Group’s West Africa Senior Analyst. “But deterioration of the political climate in the run-up to 2015 could make the country less immune”.

“Burkina Faso has significant diplomatic influence in West Africa”, says Gilles Yabi, Crisis Group’s West Africa Project Director. “The president and his men have succeeded in positioning themselves as indispensable mediators in the resolution of regional crises. Turmoil in Burkina Faso would not only mean the loss of a key ally and a strategic base for France and the U.S., it would also further weaken the capacity of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to deal with conflicts and political crises”.