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Le Burkina doit trouver sa voie entre besoin de justice et réconciliation
Le Burkina doit trouver sa voie entre besoin de justice et réconciliation
Supporters of President-elect Roch Marc Kabore watch election results at Kabore's campaign headquarters in Ouagadougou, 1 December 2015. REUTERS/Joe Penney
Briefing 116 / Africa

Burkina Faso: Transition, Act II

Burkina Faso’s democratically elected new government faces great challenges to deliver on justice, socio-economic needs and regional security. To succeed, authorities must resist the temptation to establish a new one-party hegemony. Instead, they should engage in social dialogue and political reconciliation, military reform, and friendly relations with neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire.

I. Overview

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré’s victory in the 29 November presidential election shows that Burkinabes aspire as much to change as to continuity. A former heir apparent to Blaise Compaoré, Kaboré symbolises both the stability of the former regime and, given his split from Compaoré, the desire for change. The new government must deliver on many challenges: major socio-economic needs, demands for justice, the fight against corruption and impunity, army reform and growing regional threats. The government will have to refrain from triumphalism, recognise the formidable challenges ahead and, most importantly, resist the temptation to recreate a Compaoré-like system of one-party hegemony. Without this, Burkinabes will massively return to the streets, as in October 2014 and September 2015, which could plunge the country back into crisis.

For now, however, a sense of relief is in order: the long and fragile transition was completed peacefully. By organising the free and fair 29 November elections, the transition fulfilled its principal purpose. It did not, however, manage to resolve all outstanding issues of the Compaoré years: economic crimes and acts of violence committed under the former regime have gone unpunished. The September 2015 attempted coup allowed the country to rid itself of at least the presidential guard (RSP). While the RSP’s dissolution is another step toward dismantling the Compaoré system, it does not solve the thorny issue of the future of the former regime’s partisans. The real transition – the one that should lead to the consolidation of democracy and the introduction of a new form of governance – begins now, with the installation of the new authorities.

The grace period will not last. Dire budgetary realities mean the new president will struggle to meet immediately the population’s high expectations, especially their socioeconomic demands. The presence of violent extremist groups in neighbouring countries is another threat. The October 2015 attack on a gendarmerie post in the west of the country, the first of its kind in Burkina Faso, is evidence of the worsening security environment. The inauguration of new authorities could be followed by a rapid deterioration of the social climate, which, combined with regional security threats, could create an explosive cocktail and block the new government’s scope for action. Furthermore, the September coup attempt demonstrated that the armed forces remain a key actor in the country’s political life. The military’s ability to interfere in political affairs, a constant feature of Burkina Faso’s history since 1966, did not disappear with the RSP’s dissolution.

The political class will eventually have to solve its own disputes. It will be particularly difficult for some of Compaoré affiliates to accept the accession to power of their ex-comrades-turned-enemies of the Movement of People for Progress (MPP) – founded in January 2014 as an outgrowth of the former ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party. This animosity could generate further tensions, especially if the new government succumbs to the temptation of a witch hunt against members of the former regime, and if some Compaoré followers choose destabilisation as their strategy to demonstrate that they remain a force to be reckoned with.

If Compaoré associates decide to use neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire as a rear base, as was allegedly the case during the September coup and the foiled attack against the Ouagadougou military prison last December, relations between Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire could rapidly deteriorate. The bone of contention between the two countries has grown over the last two months. In addition to the suspected involvement of some Ivorian dignitaries in the September coup, the Ivorian authorities have so far ignored an arrest warrant against Compaoré issued on 4 December by a Burkinabè military court.

The October 2014 uprising that ousted Compaoré after 27 years in power marked a major upheaval in Burkina Faso, and the September 2015 coup was the first aftershock. Despite the peaceful elections, the country is not immune to future trouble as it opens a new chapter of its history. Many short- and long-term measures could be adopted to reduce the risk of future instability.

  • The new authorities should organise a constructive dialogue with unions, and quickly adopt social appeasement measures, focusing on youth and the country’s poorest regions.
  • The new authorities should rapidly begin to reform the army and develop a global defence and security strategy through the publication of a white paper. Army reform should be carried out under parliamentary supervision and the commission in charge of it should include civilians and retired military officers.
  • The role of the National High Council of Elders should be constitutionalised, as was recommended by the reconciliation commission, so that its function as an institution supporting the resolution and prevention of social and political crises is fully established.
  • Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso should continue to strengthen their relationship as part of the 2008 Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. Ivorian leaders should move past their political ties with former Compaoré regime officials and make Burkina Faso’s stability a priority, if necessary by cooperating with Burkina Faso’s courts.
  • Burkina Faso’s international partners should stay mobilised to provide adequate financial assistance, in particular to help the government deal with social demands. This support is particularly important given Burkina Faso’s position as one of the last islands of stability in an increasingly troubled region.

Dakar/Brussels, 7 January 2016

Interview / Africa

Le Burkina doit trouver sa voie entre besoin de justice et réconciliation

Originally published in AFP

Le Burkina Faso, où des soldats du Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) refusent toujours de désarmer malgré l'échec de leur coup d'Etat, doit, pour sortir durablement de la crise, "trouver sa voie médiane" entre besoins de "justice" et de "réconciliation", estime Cynthia Ohayon, experte de l'ONG International Crisis Group, basée à Dakar.

AFP: La médiation régionale avait proposé une amnistie pour les putschistes, immédiatement rejetée par la société civile. Comment conjuguer justice et volonté de tourner la page ?

Cynthia Ohayon: C'est une des questions les plus difficiles, qui se posait déjà depuis le début de la transition. Il y a une vraie volonté de sanctionner le clan Compaoré pour les crimes à la fois économiques et politiques qui ont été commis. Cette volonté est compréhensible. Il faut qu'il y ait des sanctions, on ne peut pas perpétuer l'impunité. C'est à chaque pays de trouver sa voie médiane entre deux impératifs: le besoin de justice, de punir les crimes passés et en même temps le besoin de dialogue et de réconciliation. L'amnistie qui avait été proposée par la Cédéao était totale. D'un point de vue moral c'est inacceptable, d'un point de vue politique cela ne passe pas chez la société civile et la plupart des partis politiques de l'ancienne opposition.

Et même d'un point de vue stratégique: amnistier complètement les auteurs d'un coup d'Etat va forcément encourager d'autres à se lancer. Une amnistie totale ne rend jamais service à personne mais il ne faut pas tomber non plus dans la chasse aux sorcières.

Le Burkina peut-il s'inspirer d'autres sorties de crises africaines ?

Le Burkina a ses propres spécificités. Contrairement à un certain nombre de pays africains, ce n'est pas une crise qui repose sur une instrumentalisation politique de facteurs ethniques ou religieux. La crise est d'une nature différente et donc les solutions doivent aussi être de nature différente. Le Burkina est un pays où il y a une forte capacité de compromis et une forte culture du dialogue: il faut mettre à profit cette culture pour réussir à éviter l'affrontement.

Il faut si possible ne pas exclure une partie de la classe politique. Le problème c'est qu'une partie du CDP (Congrès pour la démocratie et le progrès, ex-parti de Compaoré) a soutenu voire activement participé au coup d'Etat. Elle s'est donc complètement +délégalisée+, décrédibilisée. Pourtant c'est difficile de penser l'avenir du pays sans prendre en compte ceux qui l'ont dirigé pendant trente ans.

Sur la question de la dissolution du RSP, le décret a été pris deux jours après la restauration du gouvernement de transition. Il aurait peut-être fallu attendre que les braises s'éteignent un peu plus pour renouer une certaine forme de dialogue.

Pourquoi le Burkina a-t-il replongé dans la crise ?

C'est une crise de long terme. Les racines sont profondes. Il ne fallait pas s'attendre à en sortir rapidement, au contraire (...) Cette crise trouve ses racines dans la chute de Blaise Compaoré (en octobre 2014). Quand un autocrate a dirigé le pays et dominé à ce point la vie politique pendant quasiment trois décennies, forcément, reconstruire le pays, penser l'avenir du pays après sa chute va être difficile. C'est toujours un processus qui est long, laborieux, et qui se fait par à-coups. Avec des pas en avant et des pas en arrière comme ce coup d'Etat. Ce n'est pas parce qu'on a restauré la transition et l'autorité civile qu'on a résolu les racines de cette crise.