Friday, September 18, 2015

Updates on Burkina Faso


The Economist has a good summary:
IN A small African country, soldiers seize the president they are meant to be protecting and dissolve the government. More take control of the TV and radio stations. A burly man in a military uniform issues a statement on TV and radio to explain that for the sake of democracy and the state of the nation, the army has intervened to stop the despotic, immoral government. International outrage follows, as do protests at home. A curfew is imposed; the airport shut down; people shot in the streets. Few are quite sure what is happening.
It is clichéd stuff. But it keeps happening, ... On September 17th the drama unfolded in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country of 17m in West Africa. Michel Kafando, the interim president since last October, and several other members of his government, were arrested by the presidential guard. A spokesman, complete with awkward uniform, appeared on television to announce that the “National Council for Democracy” has decided it necessary to put to an end the temporary government. A general, Gilbert Diendéré (pictured), declared himself the country’s new leader. Protests were put down, with three people apparently killed after a curfew was imposed last night.
The proximate cause for the upheaval in Burkina Faso is presidential power and term limits. Mr Diendéré is a close ally of the former president, Blaise Compaoré, who was eased aside last October after 27 years in power. Mr Compaoré had attempted to introduce a law abolishing Burkina Faso’s two term limit, which would have made him ineligible to run in the 2015 elections. The attempt sparked protesters to set fire to the parliament building and to seize the state television station. The military (as distinct from the presidential guard) then intervened against Mr Compaoré, persuading him to resign and promising elections within a year.
These were scheduled for 11th October, but now seem unlikely to happen. The coup on September 17th seems to have been prompted in part by a law passed by the transitional government in effect forbidding assembly members who had voted to abolish term limits—and so many members of Mr Compaoré’s government—from running. As a Crisis Group briefing published in June warned, this was a recipe for instability, “injecting the poison of political exclusion into a country that is attached to multi-party politics and dialogue.” Instead of resorting to lawsuits and appeals, the excluded parties seem to have gone for the gun. ...
Since the coup, the military has released the arrested interim president, and the African Union has suspended Burkina Faso's membership.

Although the new military government emphasizes the electoral code and its exclusion of the former ruling party and its allies, the other proximate causes were:
(1) A commission's recommendation on Tuesday to dismantle the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP). A good interview about the RSP and its role in Burkina Faso and the coup is HERE.
(2) Ballistic reports from an investigation into Thomas Sankara's death were supposed to be published yesterday. Diendéré (as well as former president Compaore) is rumored to be among those who assassinated the popular Sankara in 1987.

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