Mr Michel Kafando, the septuagenarian former U.N. Ambassador, was the choice of the military junta that briefly took power after the dramatic but unceremonious departure of the long time dictator, Mr Blaise Compaore, and leaders of the country’s opposition political parties and civil society groups after talks brokered by regional leaders. The interim administration is expected to hold office until elections in November 2015. The military had previously restored the Constitution which was suspended in the wake of the apparent coup d’état.
This dramatic turnaround capped three weeks of turmoil and uncertainty that gripped the country when riots broke out in anger as parliament scheduled debate on a legislation that would have altered the Constitution and paved way for Compaore’s 27-year reign to be extended farther. The sustained rioting led to the burning down of parliament, ransacking of other government building and forcing Compaore to flee into exile.
The army had initially appointed themselves as interim leaders, which the public resisted and, with mediation effort by a panel of West African leaders, including Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, the country is back on constitutional track.
This has rekindled hopes that the Burkina Faso for the first time in over three decades since its first president, Maurice Yamaego, banned all political parties except his ruling Voltaic Democratic Union, a genuine return to participatory democracy would take place. A series of military rulers took turn at leadership until the charismatic Captain Thomas Sankara seized power on August 4, 1983. Sankara’s deputy in the ruling junta Blaise Compaore masterminded a palace coup, killing the left-leaning Sankara in the process in October 1987, and installed himself head of state, organising and ‘winning’ all elections since.
The people’s resolve to end Comapaore’s dictatorship was driven by a yearning for good governance which had eluded them for decades, just as the outcome of that resolve sends a strong signal to other nations that are presently wallowing under the yoke of unpopular governments that people can always earn their freedom when they have had enough of being denied their say and rights.
The Burkinabe have shown to the rest of the region that with a common purpose and united, the people can throw out the yoke of unpopular leaders that have overstayed their welcome. Much more potent than the Arab Spring, the Burkinabe desert wind gathered momentum from internal dissent and dealt a big blow to dictatorship. Because of the people’s resilience, the country now stands on the threshold of a new future for itself, and for them. This is why the transitional government must get its act right. The opportunity of building a new nation from the ruins of the past is too attractive to be wasted. In the process of fashioning the political future for the country based on the new Charter of the Transition, the government needs to identify the pitfalls of past administrations, taking into account the aspirations of the people.
The transitional government should therefore engage in wide consultation with as many interest groups as possible, given the decades old run of the political challenges of the country and the deep-seated cleavages associated with such circumstances. This is also necessary in order to earn the confidence of the international community on the integrity of their prescriptions and programmes with respect to the way forward, so long as they serve the national interest.
The inglorious exit of Compaore is another reminder of the ignoble passion of some African despots to remain in office beyond their relevance, thereby arresting the development aspirations of their nations. It is a chapter in the political life of Burkina Faso that should never repeat itself. That is however only possible through deliberate efforts at fostering a new democratic dispensation that matches the expectations of the people and the resources of the country. Burkina Faso after Blaise Compaore should be a nation looking forward with confidence to an assured future for its citizens.