What is Happening in Burkina Faso?
The streets of Ouagadougou erupted earlier this week when President Blaise Compaore attempted to ask parliament for a constitutional exemption to pursue a fifth term as president of Burkina Faso. Protesters acted swiftly, storming and burning the parliament building, and several other government structures. President Compaore initially applauded the early protests to his looking for another term as president, and acknowledged the possibility for the first change in leadership since he took power in a coup 27 years ago. However, as smoke billowed throughout the capital city Compaore shifted gears and announced his resignation. General Honore Traore (the military leader of Burkina Faso) has taken over the current government, dissolving parliament and promising democratic elections at some point in the next year.
There are still currently protests criticizing the military’s handling of Compaore’s resignation, yet it appears the majority of the violence is (hopefully) over. With a current military rule, it would be difficult to foresee a full-blown revolt erupt from these protests. This is even more convincing when one considers the immediate promise by Traore to conduct elections. While I cannot even attempt to predict the outcome of the future of domestic politics in Burkina Faso, this shift in power has implications for members of the international community who have invested in Burkina Faso.
The United States and France have both come out and publicly applauded Compaore’s decision to step down and called for an end to the violence. Both nations have used Burkina Faso as a stable arbiter in the region. With this shift in power, these western powers must look to ensure that Burkina Faso remains stable, and they will likely have to work to gain the trust of the future president. While it is often in the best interests of the United States to have a steady long-term leader in unstable regions, it is impossible to keep this system forever. Burkina Faso should serve as an example of a steady regime change in an unsteady region, and may very well test the state department’s ability to adapt to changes in international leadership.
In a surprisingly quick yet hectic turn of events, the government of Burkina Faso has undergone dramatic changes in the past few days. The success of this transition will be heavily determined by the military’s ability to govern and administer elections, as well as the nation’s ability to recognize the legitimacy of any newly elected officials. If it is successful, however, it will provide the world with an example of democratic change in a nation and a region where this has rarely occurred. While it is too early to declare the success of any transition of power in Burkina Faso, there are positive prospects for what it may look like in the future, and what it could mean for the country and the world.