Saad Shah

The Land of Honest People


BF flag (1)
The Flag of Burkina Faso


What does Compaore’s departure mean for Burkinabè?

Truth be told, until recently, many people were probably unaware of a country named Burkina Faso in West Africa. Burkina Faso is a landlocked country with a population of about 16.9 million people. Sadly, over half of the population lives on less than $1 a day. The recent exit of President Blaise Compaore makes people wonder: What is next for Burkina Faso? Campaore held power for 27 years since 1987. Recently, as a result of mass protests against his attempts to pass a bill that would enable him to stay in power for another term, Compaore resigned from the position of the President of Burkina Faso. Currently, he is residing in the neighbouring country: Côte D’Ivoire.

While, for many, this turnover may be deemed successful, the protestors are unhappy with the outcome. Military Colonel Isaac Zida has assumed control of the country. He stated that “the form and duration [of the transitional period] will be determined later”. Zida is supported by the army of Burkina Faso. In the meantime, the military remains effectively in power, and it has made no declaration about next democratic elections in the country. Both the US and EU have left it to the people of Burkina Faso to decide who rules their country.

However, from past experiences, it remains evident that once the military assumes power, the possibility of its staying remains indefinite. For example, in Egypt, after Mohamed Morsi was elected as the President (post- revolution leading to the imprisonment of Hosni Mubarak), he was deposed within a few months by General Abdel Fateh El-Sisi. However, he still retains the post of the Presidency. Similarly in Pakistan, General Parvez Musharraf seized power in 1999 as a result of a coup. While there was a referendum in 2002, which Musharraf won by 98% of support, it is widely believed that the results were fraudulent. However, it was not until 2008 that he was impeached from his position. Thus, it seems that while the events in Burkina Faso have been turning quickly, there is a strong possibility that transition to democratic rule might be longer than the 90 days outlined in the constitution.

Burkina Faso is a very poor country, and the major exports are gold and cotton. It has been an important base to combat terrorist activities in the neighbouring countries; but, without a quick transition to civilian government, the future seems unsure. During his tenure, Compaore failed to be a great leader in leading his people to prosperity. However, on the international stage he was respected because of his firm stance against terrorism. Domestically, his rule was authoritarian, and he firmly silenced dissent and opposition to his position. At this early stage of the crisis, it cannot be said for sure how long the military will rule, and the changes that it may put forth. However, if people remain unhappy with the army’s rule, and if it decides to postpone democratic elections, there is a possibility for more violence, which might even warrant international intervention. This has happened in other countries around the world, and remains a close possibility in Burkina Faso as well.

Saad Shah
Saad Shah is currently enrolled in a specialist program in International Relations and a major in Russian language and literature at the University of Toronto. He has a special interest in the affairs of the Arctic countries and Russian foreign policy, especially in relation to Canada. His studies in International Relations and Russian language provide him with a better understanding of politics in Eastern Europe and its impact on Canada and its allies. Being a citizen of Pakistan he also takes an interest in the international affairs of South Asia and Middle East. Saad is an aspiring lawyer and has experience working in a law firm. He hopes to gain significant experience before applying to law school. ​​