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Burkina Faso - Blaise Compaore

Blaise Compaore pledged to pursue the goals of the revolution but to "rectify" Sankara's "deviations" from the original aims. In fact, Compaore reversed most of Sankara's policies and combined the leftist party he headed with more centrist parties after the 1989 arrest and execution of two military officers, Major Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingini and Captain Henri Zongo, who had supported Compaore and governed with him up to that point.

In 1991, a democratic constitution was approved in a referendum, and Compaore easily won that year’s presidential election due to an opposition boycott. Burkina held multiparty municipal elections in 1995, 2000, and 2006, as well as legislative elections in 1997, 2002, and 2007. Balloting was considered largely free and fair in all elections despite minor irregularities. The Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), the governing party, won overwhelming majorities in all the elections, except for the 2002 legislative elections, where the CDP won with only a small majority of the 111 seats. Compaore won the November 1998 presidential election for a second 7-year term against two minor-party candidates.

But within weeks of Compaore's victory, domestic opposition and civil society groups took to the streets to protest the December 13, 1998, murder of leading independent journalist Norbert Zongo, whose investigations of the death of the President's brother's chauffeur suggested involvement of the Compaore family. The Collective Against Impunity, including civil society groups, human rights associations, and opposition parties--led by human rights activist Halidou Ouedraogo and opposition political party leaders including the late Prof. Joseph Ki-Zerbo and (for a while) Hermann Yameogo, son of the first President--challenged Compaore and his government to bring Zongo's murderers to justice and make political reforms.

The Zongo killings still resonate in Burkina politics, though not as strongly as in the past. There has been no significant progress on the investigation of the case. The case is not closed; it is suspended and can be re-activated until July 2016 if new information is brought before the courts. However, with the December 23, 2009 death of Chief Warrant Officer Marcel Kafando, sole suspect in the case, the case is de facto closed.

Compaore was re-elected to the presidency for a 5-year term in November 2005. Observers considered the election to have been generally free, despite minor irregularities, but not entirely fair due to the ruling party's control of official resources. The constitution had been amended in 2000 to limit the president to a 5-year term, renewable once, beginning with the November 2005 election. The amendment was controversial because it did not make any mention of retroactivity, meaning that President Compaore's eligibility to present himself for the 2005 presidential election, his third, was a matter of debate. The Constitutional Court ruled in October 2005 that the amendment was not retroactive, and Compaore went on to win the November 2005 presidential election with over 80% of the vote. Most international and national electoral observers believed that the election was fair.

In 2007, the CDP won a majority in the May legislative elections, which observers declared generally free and orderly despite irregularities including fraud involving voter identification cards. Observers agreed that the 2004 revision of the electoral code negatively impacted the 2002 gains of opposition political parties during the 2007 legislative elections.

Running against six opponents, President Compaore won the November 21, 2010 presidential elections with over 80% of the vote, with an estimated 55% voter turnout. Compaore’s current term is supposed to be his last, but there were suggestions that he sought to change the constitution to remove limits on the number of terms a president can serve.

In November 2010 President Blaise Compaore was reelected to a fourth term with more than 80 percent of the vote. Observers considered the election free and transparent, despite minor irregularities, but not entirely fair due to the ruling party's control of official resources. The president, assisted by members of his party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), continued to dominate the government. The CDP won a majority in the 2007 legislative elections, which observers declared generally free and orderly despite irregularities, including fraud involving voter identification cards. There were instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of civilian control.

By 2011 Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore faced what appeared to be the stiffest resistance ever to his nearly quarter-century rule of the West African nation. Analysts saw connections between Burkina's unrest and the revolutions sweeping the Arab world. Burkina had never found itself so isolated and weak. Its economic lifeline of remittances from Ivory Coast had been shredded by that country's political violence. Its other lifeline - Libyan aid - completely vanished as that country's leader, Compaore ally Moammar Gadhafi, confronted a civil war.

In 2011, Burkina Faso was rocked by months of protests, civil unrest, and lawlessness. In spring 2011, Burkina Faso faced a combination of fast-breaking and largely unexpected civilian protests and rank-and-file military looting--some linked and some not--reflecting a long-simmering malaise and a deep-seated resentment of what many Burkinabe perceived as an entrenched and increasingly sclerotic “old guard.” In the aftermath, the government re-opened all educational institutions (which remain overcrowded, underfunded, and strike-prone), dormitories, and support services and met with representatives of student and military groups to hear their grievances and find solutions.

President Compaore also replaced the Prime Minister, Chief of Defense, and security service chiefs and appointed new governors (mostly career civil servants) in all 13 states. On July 12, the government detained 217 ringleaders of several March-May mutinies and dismissed 566 participating soldiers, to public acclaim.

While this activity was not anti-American in nature, this period of unrest temporarily created an unstable security situation in cities and towns all over Burkina Faso. Mutineers from the Burkinabè military broke into armories and stole supplies, weapons, and ammunition, and fired sporadically into the air over several nights in response to grievances over allowances and benefits.

The mutineers, possibly joined by opportunistic criminals, carjacked vehicles, looted and vandalized residences and businesses, robbed restaurants and hotels and their guests at gunpoint, burglarized homes, and assaulted at least one government official. Several people were killed as a result of errant gunfire. Merchants assembled during the daylight hours to protest the looting by burning tires and damaging government buildings. Separately, students protested against police impunity over the death of a student in police custody by burning tires, damaging public and private property, and hijacking public transportation in order to gather more supporters.

Also in July 2011, the National Assembly dissolved the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) so that a new chairman could be appointed to lead CENI's preparations for 2012 legislative and municipal elections. The former chairman had refused to resign despite calls by the government and opposition for him to do so over his handling of the November 2010 polls. The opposition had threatened to withdraw its members from the CENI, which would have rendered it legally incapable of performing its duties. A new chairman and members of CENI were sworn in by the Constitutional Council on September 5, 2011 and immediately started preparations for 2012 elections. In order to obtain a more reliable voter registry for the scheduled December 2 elections, the government has opted to use biometric data collection for voters, although it is very costly.

In joint legislative/municipal elections held in 2012, the CDP won 70 of 127 seats in the National Assembly and the vast majority of municipal seats. Opposition parties won 30 seats, and parties traditionally aligned with the government won the remaining 27 seats. Although election observers characterized the elections as free and orderly, opposition parties filed complaints with the Constitutional Council of irregularities, including attempted fraud involving voter identification cards. The council dismissed most opposition complaints and confirmed the legislative election results. Nevertheless, following complaints filed by several political parties, the State Council (an administrative court) decided to cancel municipal election results in 691 polling stations across the country. The government instituted a new biometric registration system in response to opposition and NGO calls for reliable electoral rolls.

On 28 October 2014, more than 200,000 persons peacefully protested Compaore’s effort to change the constitutionally mandated presidential term limit. On October 30, the day of the scheduled National Assembly vote, rioters burned the National Assembly and other buildings. Compaore dissolved the National Assembly and government and declared a state of siege.

On 31 October 2014, Compaore, who had been in power since 1987, resigned and fled the country with members of his family, the National Assembly president, and others.

On December 21, 2015, Burkina Faso's military court issued an international arrest warrant for the country's former President, Blaise Compaore. An international warrant was necessary because Compaore had been living in the Cote d'Ivoire, a country on the southwestern border of Burkina Faso. He is charged with having a role in the assassination of Captain Thomas Sankara, a former revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, together with 12 of Sankara's supporters, in 1987. The killings took place during the coup through which Campaore came into power; he has denied being involved in the assassinations.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2017 18:16:03 ZULU