Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore has departed for good. He was ex-filtrated from Ouagadougou by French security to Yamassoukrou, Côte d’Ivoire. According to press reports, he is now in Morocco.
After a consultation among political opposition, the military, and civil society, the people of Burkina have decided on a transitional government. The transitional president is Michel Kafando, a distinguished retired diplomat. The prime minister will be Lt. Colonel Isaac Zida, the second in command of the presidential guard.
None of the officials in the transitional regime will be eligible to run for high office in the elections that will take place some time in 2015. Nevertheless, people who are suspicious of a possible return to military rule do not like the fact that a military officer, who was very close to Blaise Compaore, will be running the day-to-day operations of the transitional regime.
I am optimistic that the final result will be a new civilian government selected through a transparent election. I believe that the military insisted on being part of the transitional government in order to assure the army’s future role in Burkina Faso. The military saw what happened in Nigeria in 1999 when civilian rule replaced two decades of military rule. The new civilian regimes in Nigeria since 1999 have neglected the military in terms of both budget and equipment. What used to be the most powerful army in West Africa, is now underfunded and underequipped, and cannot cope with a major insurgency in the northeastern region of the country. The Burkina military does not want to repeat the Nigerian experience.
As for the potential for a return to multiparty democracy, the prospect is favorable, in my opinion. Before the military coup carried out by the late Thomas Sankara and the recently deposed Blaise Compaore in 1986, Burkina Faso, then called Upper Volta, had a tradition of competitive elections, as well as free trade unions. I believe they will return to the democratic tradition.
The US military has facilities in Burkina as part of US support for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region. I believe the US Government need not worry about the continuity of Burkina support for those efforts. The new transitional regime understands that they and the US, as well as the French, are partners in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb (AQIM), and will certainly continue to make their military facilities available to American drone operations.