Pressure on Burkina Faso

Strong external pressure increases the chance for a democratic transition, NAI researcher Jesper Bjarnesen said at an internal seminar at the Nordic Africa Institute. Burkina Faso’s president Blaise Compaoré resigned on Friday following two days of mass protests.

See the filmed Burkina Faso discussion on YouTube (opens in new window).

The presidents of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal are in Burkina Faso to press the military for a speedy handover of power to a civilian ruler. Also, the African Union (AU) has given Interim leader Lt Col Isaac Zida a two-week deadline to hand over power.

“Isaac Zida has promised to comply. A sign pointing towards that next year’s presidential elections might be held as planned”, said Cristiano Lanzano, researcher at NAI.

However, even with a civilian caretaker at the reigns the Burkinabe military is likely to play a key role in a democratic transition, Lanzano stated:

“The army is by many people considered to be the most structured and stable institution in the country.”

Bjarnesen added that the transitional leaders will need to tread carefully in order to avoid public anger:

“It started as a clearly popular uprising and people will turn quickly against those considered to ‘steal the revolution’ and steer it away from a democratic and inclusive track.”

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has expressed great concerned about the crisis in Burkina Faso and called for a shift to civilian rule. AU has threatened to impose sanctions if the military does not act within the two-week deadline.

“The Burkinabe economy is still relatively weak and aid-dependent. It is not as self-sufficient as that of neighboring Ivory Coast for example.”, Bjarnesen said.

Blaise Compaoré came to power in a coup in 1987, and thereafter won four disputed elections.

The protests were triggered by his plan to change the constitution so that he could run for office again in next year’s elections.

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