After 27 years in power, Burkina Faso’s controversial leader, Blaise Compaoré, has resigned. The resignation comes after the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Honore Nabere Traore, announced the dissolution of the country’s government amidst violent protests against a proposed amendment to extend presidential term limits. The situation is fluid and chaotic. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the uprising in Burkina Faso.
Sources: News.Xinhuanet.com, ForeignPolicy.com, BBC.com, Reuters.com, Edition.CNN.com, RT.com, GreenLeft.org.au, NYTimes.com
Article 37, set to be voted on by Burkina Faso’s parliament, limited presidential terms to two. It was widely feared that parliament would amend the bill to allow for additional terms, meaning President Compaoré could be eligible to extend his reign. Leading up to the vote, a statue of Compaoré was torn down in Bobo-Dioulasso, and protestors broke into parliament and set the building on fire. Following the violent protests, Compaoré announced the withdrawal of the bill and declared a state of emergency across the country.
The vote on Article 37 triggered an increase in protests, but analysts say unrest has been brewing in the country for years. High prices, low wages, and widespread poverty have created a culture of discontent, particularly among the younger population. Many assume violence was inevitable long before parliament was set to vote on the amended bill.
In his statement, Compaoré said, “I declare that I’m leaving power in order to have a free and transparent election in 90 days. For my part, I think I have fulfilled my duty.” He said his decision to resign came “in light of the severely deteriorated socio-political situation and the threat of division in our national army and out of a desire to preserve the peace.” Compaoré and his family were taken in by Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who has said that he was paying “particular attention” to the events in Burkina Faso.
Source: GreenLeft.org.au, BBC.com
In his announcement about the dissolution of the government, Gen. Traore first named himself, and then retired Army general Kwame Louge as acting president, and opposition leader Zephirin Diabre as prime minister. Since then, the Army released a statement signed by Traore that Lt. Col. Isaac Zida was “chosen unanimously to lead the transition period,” and that the transition government intends to hold office for 12 months, at which time “free, transparent and democratic elections will be organized.”
Source: News.Xinhuanet.com, BBC.com
The military takeover of Burkina Faso’s government has been condemned by the international community, and the UN and the African Union have both said the military must pass power to civilians or face sanctions. UN West Africa envoy Mohamed Ibn Chambas said, “We hope there will be a transition led by a civilian and in keeping with the constitutional order. If not, the consequences are pretty clear. We want to avoid having to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso.” The U.S. also urged Burkina Faso to transition power to the people, threatening to freeze military cooperation with the country if it deems a coup has taken place.
Source: BBC.com, Reuters.com
Thousands gathered in Ouagadougou’s National Square following the takeover, claiming Compaoré’s resignation was a populist victory, and the military has no place running the government. In a statement, the groups said, “The victory born from this popular uprising belongs to the people, and the task of managing the transition falls by right to the people.” They are calling for the military to leave power, and some have even accused the military of being in league with Compaoré.
Media sources reported gunfire during clashes between protesters in Ouagadougou calling for the transition to civilian rule, near the location of the state news TV channel. The Army cleared thousands of protesters from the capital and opened fire at the state TV headquarters, killing one person.
On Sunday, Nov. 2, witnesses said opposition leader Saran Sereme, along with an army general, attempted to head to the RTB Television site to declare herself in charge of the transition, leading to the gunfire incident as the Army blocked the way. Sereme denied this charge, saying she was brought to the station by force.
According to Burkina Faso’s constitution, a presidential resignation should transfer power to the president of the Senate, and elections should take within 60-to-90 days afterwards. However, the Burkina Faso Senate was never created before the resignation of President Compaoré due to extended political confrontation over its establishment, meaning there was no apparent person to take over the presidency.
Article 43 of the constitution reads, “In case of vacancy of the Presidency of Faso for any cause that may be, or of absolute or definitive incapacity declared by the Constitutional Council referred to [the matter] by the Government, the functions of the President of Faso are exercised by the President of the Senate. It proceeds to the election of a new President for a new period of five years. The election of the new President takes place sixty days at least and ninety days at most after [the] official declaration of the vacancy or of the definitive character of the incapacity.”
UN West Africa envoy Mohammed Ibn Chamabs said Lt. Col. Isaac Zida, the former second in command of the presidential guard, has promised to “reflect and try to work with the UN, African Union and the Economic Community of West African States and to find an acceptable agreement which conforms to the constitution.”