Burkina Faso: Nine Months to Complete the Transition
Three months after Blaise Compaoré’s departure, Burkina Faso’s transition is moving forward in an uncertain context. The provisional government, with the help of its international partners, should initiate urgent reforms and ensure the October 2015 elections allow for peaceful, democratic change.
When President Blaise Compaoré was ousted in October 2014, he left the country with weak institutions and under economic strain. The provisional government, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida, has nine months left to organise presidential and parliamentary polls. Three major contradictions threaten the country’s stability: the tension between the desire for stability and the hope for radical change; the short time available in the transition to achieve vital but enormous tasks; and the need to organise polls as well as implement reforms while lacking the necessary funds. In its latest report, Burkina Faso: Nine Months to Complete the Transition, the International Crisis Group argues that to overcome these hurdles and to ensure that the army recedes from power at the end of the transition, Burkina Faso’s main actors should continue to manage the transition in an inclusive manner and receive the support of their international partners.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
- Burkina Faso’s transitional authorities must clearly define their priorities for the next nine months along four lines: rebuilding trust between the authorities and the population; improving the electoral law; elaborating a new draft constitution; and reforming the army.
- Dissolving the former presidential guard, the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), must be done with great care and in constant consultation with its members. Unless RSP members are offered continued salary payment, pension rights and career progression, they could resort to violence and threaten the transition.
- To prepare for the October 2015 elections, the electoral law should be amended to allow independent candidates to contest local and legislative elections and to set a limit for financial contributions to election campaigns. In addition, the electoral commission should encourage the involvement of Burkina’s youthful voting population.
- Burkina Faso’s partners – the Economic Community of West African States, France, the U.S., the EU and Taiwan – should provide the funds needed to revise voter rolls and organise the elections. They should help in setting up the program to tackle youth unemployment promised by President Michel Kafando, and engage in dialogue with the army and military officers to make sure they relinquish power at the end of the transition.
“The transitional government will need to find the right balance between satisfying popular demands to prevent massive street protests and avoiding populist tendencies that could threaten state authority”, says Rinaldo Depagne, West Africa Project Director. “Blaise Compaoré’s departure does not mean that Burkina Faso is out of the woods”.
“Burkina Faso’s international partners must not repeat the mistake of turning a blind eye to poor governance to safeguard their strategic interests”, says Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director. “Now that the people have risen against autocracy, international partners should provide crucial financial and political support to accompany the country on its democratic path”.