The 30th of October will echo through the history of west Africa for many years to come. This will remain the day where the people of the small nation of Burkina Faso stood up to the iron fist of Blaise Compaore, their authoritarian dictator. While an oppressor was defeated and a victory for citizens resounded, it still remains unclear what the future will hold for these self-determining citizens.
If one was to ask any Burkina Faso citizen today what the article 37 is about, they’ll answer precisely. For this article 37 is why today Compaore is not holding his office. This turmoil all began began because of Compaore’s thirst for power, as he attempted to circumvent this article 37 which explicitly limits heads of state to a two-term reign. In the days preceding the uprising, the president suggested a revision of Burkina Faso’s constitution in order to allow him to begin a fifth mandate at the head of the country.
This political move on the president’s behalf caused the people of the the capital city, Ouagadougou, to demonstrate their exhaustion of Compaore’s iron fist over Burkina Faso. In the face of the ensuing violence from the riot, the army which was not backing the President anymore allowed the rioters to protest at will. They sieged public television and burned down the national assembly, coupled with violent protests in other cities around the country. Compaore, who initially said he would turn down at the end of his mandate, resigned the first night. This left the seat of power vacant in the country, although the military did not wait long in filling the position.
The next morning, a official of the army, rather low-profile in Burkina’s political landscape addressed the people in those words: “People of Burkina Faso, a page of our history was turned this morning. From this day on, Blaise Compaore is no longer president of Burkina Faso. Your army has heard your voice and we are here to tell you that the power is now in the hands of the people. The people is now the master of its destiny. This ‘place de la nation’ is from now on the siege of the government of Burkina Faso. Know, that your army is with you, in all its components”. Although the military forces publicly indicate a positive, pro-democratic attitude in the transition, the opposition questions their sincerity, and accuses them of doing so only to get the favour of the international community.
Ever since then, the military branch has been trying to assert their power over the transition, all under the guise of public safety. However, their actions in the interests of keeping the people safe are beginning to resemble excuses to hold and consolidate power further. Indeed, as the vacancy of presidency goes on, the military forces have taken advantage of the situation for their own benefit, seizing the national television headquarters, for example.This situation is becoming increasingly problematic as tensions build.
The opposition has already expressed their scepticism upon what they call the army’s “confiscation” of their victory against Compaore. Hence, the future of Burkina Faso is in an unclear situation that could lead them two ways. They could either be headed in the direction of safe democratic transition, or conversely they may have gone down the road towards another dictatorship seizing control of the country’s executive. This situation resembles what Egypt has suffered in the aftermath of the Arab Spring with military forces requisitioning the means of power in their country.
Although the overall atmosphere in the streets remains calm since that one day of violence, the outcome of the negotiations between army and opposition keeps the possibility for further political strife present. This power vacuum that Compaore made vacant by leaving his office gave all the components of the civil society the possibility to grab public authority. However, the future will tell us if this African country is for the first time capable of achieving a stable, peaceful transition- rather than allowing conflicting interests to bring turmoil to this generally peaceful country.
Image License: Some rights reserved Rita Willaert