Burkina Faso has entered another day of political instability as hundreds of people rally in central Ouagadougou Sunday to protest against what they suspect is a military takeover after President Blaise Compaore’s escape.
Burkina Faso’s opposition and social activists claim that the military is trying to take advantage of the power vacuum, generated by Compaore’s resignation. Yesterday one of the nation’s army leaders, Isaac Zida, was chosen to lead Burkina Faso through the power transition as head of the interim government. Observers in the country have noted some similarities in the current situation with the ultimate result of the Arab Spring in Egypt, where military leader Abdel Fattah as-Sisi grabbed the reins of the government and did not let go even after the elections that followed soon thereafter.
“The victory born from this popular uprising belongs to the people, and the task of managing the transition falls by right to the people. In no case can it be confiscated by the army,” Burkina Faso political opposition and civil society said in a joint statement, as quoted by AFP. The statement called for a mass rally in what is now called “Revolution Square”, where about one million people had gathered recently to demand Compaore’s resignation.
However, only about one thousand protesters have gathered Sunday morning, according to the Star report. Some carry banners saying “Zida = Judas” as they feel their democratic aspirations are being betrayed by the army.
“We are completely against soldiers taking power,” Salif Ouedraogo, a 38-year-old insurance agent said, as quoted by AFP. “We want a civilian as head of state and tomorrow we are going to regroup at Revolution Square to say no to military power. Even if it means that there would be bloodshed.”
There indeed was bloodshed already on Thursday, when about 30 people died of injuries sustained during clashes with the police.
“It`s always the same people who are in power. Even though it was us, civilians, who carried out the struggle,” Adama Zongo, a trader, told AFP.
The international community, including the African Union and the UN, has called for a peaceful and civilian-led transition to democracy in the impoverished nation. Zida’s recent statements generally fall in line with these wishes, reflecting his commitment to ensure a safe interim period. “The aspirations for democratic change” of the Burkina youth “will be neither betrayed, nor disappointed”, he said, as quoted by the AFP.
The UN denies allegations that the army has usurped political power, but their optimism of the nation’s return to democracy is cautious. “We are hoping for a transition led by civilians in line with the constitution,” Mohammed Ibn Chambas, head of the United Nations Office for West Africa, said. “He (Zida) said he will reflect and try to work with the U.N., African Union and the Economic Community of West African States and to find an acceptable agreement which conforms to the constitution.”
The opposition points out that Zida’s actions are illegitimate, since, according to the nation’s constitution, in case the President resigns, the head of the National Assembly should take office.
The ousted Compaore has been in power since 1987, and during his rule Burkina Faso remained a largely underdeveloped export-dependent country. Last year global prices on gold and cotton, the two main income resources of Burkina Faso, slumped dramatically, causing turmoil in the nation’s economy. High unemployment and low quality of life eventually caused a social uprising as roughly 60% of the nation’s population is under the age of 25. Having grown under the rule of one president, this demographic has displayed extremely anti-establishment tendencies as their country’s development prospects seem murky due to the massively inefficient policies carried out by the now-ousted regime.