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Burkina Faso : neuf mois pour achever la transition
Burkina Faso : neuf mois pour achever la transition
The Sahel: Promoting Political alongside Military Action
The Sahel: Promoting Political alongside Military Action
Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida presents the Burkinabe flag to interim civilian President Michel Kafando in Ouagadougou, on 21 November 2014. AFP/Sia Kambou
Report 222 / Africa

Burkina Faso : neuf mois pour achever la transition

Three months after Blaise Compaoré’s departure, Burkina Faso’s transition is moving forward in an uncertain context. The provisional government, with the help of its international partners, should initiate urgent reforms and ensure the October 2015 elections allow for peaceful, democratic change.

Synthèse

C’est en réalité sans surprise que Blaise Compaoré a démissionné le 31 octobre 2014, au lendemain d’une journée insurrectionnelle historique. Vieillissant et déconnecté de la réalité, son régime a fait place à une transition incertaine, dirigée par un pouvoir bicéphale, composé de militaires et de civils, qui s’appuie sur des institutions provisoires et fragiles. Le gouvernement actuel dispose de neuf mois pour organiser des élections générales prévues pour le 11 octobre 2015. Les partenaires internationaux du Burkina Faso doivent l’aider à atteindre cet objectif tout en maintenant le dialogue avec les militaires afin qu’ils quittent le pouvoir à la fin de la transition. Ils doivent aussi tirer les leçons du soutien qu’ils ont apporté au régime Compaoré, fermant les yeux sur sa mauvaise gouvernance en échange de la préservation de leurs intérêts stratégiques.

Les quatre acteurs qui animent la transition – l’armée, l’ancienne opposition politique, la société civile et la rue – ont pour le moment réussi à s’entendre pour stabiliser de manière pacifique et relativement inclusive le pays. C’est le lieutenant-colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida, un membre de l’ancienne garde présidentielle du président Com­paoré, qui détient aujourd’hui la plus grande part du pouvoir. Si les militaires ont montré d’inquiétants signes d’autoritarisme, le Burkina n’est pas pour autant sous la coupe d’une junte. Le pouvoir de l’armée est encadré par une charte qui lui impose de partager l’exécutif et le législatif avec des civils, dont le président Michel Kafando, par une société civile et une rue qui restent mobilisées, et par une communauté internationale vigilante qui fournit une aide financière indispensable à la survie du régime actuel.

Trois points de tension menacent toutefois la stabilisation du Burkina : l’antago­nisme entre aspiration à un changement radical de gouvernance et volonté réaliste ou réformiste de préserver la stabilité ; l’écart entre le temps court de la transition et l’ampleur de la tâche à accomplir ; et la difficulté de préparer des élections et des réformes dans un contexte de finances publiques dégradées. Enfin, la dissolution de l’an­cienne garde présidentielle, le Régiment de sécurité présidentielle (RSP), fait peser, si elle est mal conduite, un sérieux risque de dérapage de la transition. Sans concertation, elle pourrait conduire les éléments de cette unité d’élite, la mieux armée du pays, à réagir violement.

Les fortes attentes de la population, après 27 ans d’un régime semi-autoritaire, et le risque que celles-ci soient déçues, font également peser un risque sur la transition. La population attend que justice soit faite sur l’assassinat en 1998 du journaliste Norbert Zongo, qui enquêtait sur le meurtre non élucidé de David Ouédraogo, le chauffeur du frère cadet de Blaise Compaoré. Cette affaire est emblématique des dérives de l’ère Compaoré et sa résolution est une revendication clé de la société civile. L’amé­lioration du niveau de vie, notamment l’accès à l’emploi et à la santé, est également une revendication importante de la population dans un des pays les plus pauvres du monde.

Le gouvernement ne pourra cependant pas agir sur tous les fronts à la fois. Il semble pour l’instant tenté de satisfaire les exigences de la « rue » en multipliant les promesses. Mais plus celles-ci sont significatives, plus il sera difficile pour le gouvernement de tout entreprendre et de tout régler. Le départ de Blaise Compaoré ne signifie donc pas que le Burkina Faso est tiré d’affaire. Pour garantir la stabilité du pays jusqu’à la fin de la transition, plusieurs mesures doivent être prises.

Commentary / Africa

The Sahel: Promoting Political alongside Military Action

Rural insurgencies across the Sahel are destabilising the region and undermining local security and governance. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to continue support for the Alliance for the Sahel and promote local dialogue to buttress law and order.

This commentary on promoting political and military action in the Sahel region is part of our annual early-warning report Watch List 2018.

The Sahel region faces particularly acute challenges. Rural insurgencies across parts of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are expanding. Jihadi groups exploit local conflicts to secure safe havens and win new recruits. Other militias are being formed, whether to defend communities, conduct criminal activities or both. Sahelian states, supported by Western powers, rely ever more heavily on force. The new G5 Sahel joint force (FC-G5S), encompassing army units from five Sahelian states, must avoid angering local communities and stoking local conflicts. It should be accompanied by local mediation and peacebuilding initiatives, outreach to communities and, where possible, efforts to engage militant leaders.

Mali’s stalemated peace process

In Mali, the epicentre of the Sahel crisis, implementation of the June 2015 Bamako peace agreement that aimed to turn the page on the country’s 2012-2013 crisis, has stalled. Having acted as chief broker of the agreement, Algiers appears to have lost interest in leading the process. No African or other actor has stepped in.

Jihadist groups capitalise on local disputes in rural areas.

Malian leaders’ attention has shifted to the July 2018 presidential election. In parts of the country, particularly central and northern Mali, a credible vote appears a remote prospect, due to insecurity and state weakness. But any attempt to postpone the vote would likely spark street protests: President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta has struggled both to restore security and stimulate development, and is increasingly unpopular even in his core constituencies of Bamako and other southern cities.

Nor have state authorities, ousted from much of the north during the 2012-2013 crisis, returned. Security continues to deteriorate in central Mali (Mopti region) and further south (Segou region), fuelling tension among communities. Jihadist groups capitalise on local disputes in rural areas, recruiting new fighters and launching attacks against national and international forces. Their reach is extending into neighbouring countries.

An expanding crisis

Northern Burkina Faso is suffering its own insurgency: notwithstanding spillover from Mali, violence there largely obeys its own logic and feeds off local dynamics. The emergence of Ansarul Islam, a Burkinabe jihadist group that has perpetrated a string of attacks against security forces and state institutions, reflects widespread discontent with the prevailing social order in the country’s north. Ouagadougou and most of its foreign partners recognise that a military campaign alone will not end the conflict, but their response needs to better factor in the deep social roots of the crisis, which means greater efforts to stimulate or facilitate communal dialogue. Ultimately, as militants operate between Mali and Burkina Faso, the crisis also requires that Mali secure its borders and both states deepen their police and judicial cooperation.

In Niger, the October 2017 killing of U.S. Special Forces and Nigerien soldiers near the border between Mali and Niger brought international attention to a long-neglected region that has become the Sahel’s latest jihadist front line. An armed group claiming links to the Islamic State has repeatedly targeted Nigerien security forces. In response, Nigerien authorities briefly backed Malian armed groups as proxy counter-terror forces along the border. Such action can prove counterproductive, adding to the already vast quantities of weaponry in the region and fuelling intercommunal conflict. The large number of armed young men in the border area between Mali and Niger – frequently now with combat experience, including fighting both against and alongside jihadist groups – are a key source of instability. Their demobilisation and reintegration into society is a critical component of any effort to end violence.

Chad is vulnerable to instability in southern Libya, where Chadian rebels have found refuge, and in the Lake Chad basin, where the Boko Haram crisis has spread. President Idriss Deby has positioned his military as a bastion against jihadism. This stance has brought financial and political support from Western powers and largely spared him their criticism, notwithstanding the country’s fragility, growing political and social discontent, and deep economic recession. Many businesses have gone bankrupt. Unemployment, especially among youth, is high. The International Monetary Fund suspended budget support in November 2017 after Chad failed to reach an agreement to restructure loans granted by a mining and oil company. Mounting political and socio-economic challenges pose a grave long-term threat to Chad; left to fester, these problems would till fertile ground for violent actors of all stripes, including jihadists.

Going beyond military solutions

After considerable delays, the G5 Sahel joint force has started to deploy at the Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso border. But it is struggling with funding shortfalls and to define its role, particularly in relation to other forces in the Sahel, from UN peacekeepers to French and U.S. counter-terrorism forces. To secure the support of local populations, the joint force should respect the rights of those living in its operations zones. Efforts to de-escalate local conflicts and, where possible, open or exploit existing lines of communication with militant leaders should accompany military action.

Sahelian states remain worryingly dependent on security assistance. Indeed, foreign donor priorities, to some degree, drive the Sahelian states’ security policies: the focus on curbing human trafficking and migrant smuggling in the region in good part reflects European worries about migration and terrorism. Yet overly strict security measures can upset fragile local economies and balances of power between central state and nomadic communities or between local authorities and ethnic or religious groups.

In this light, the Alliance for the Sahel, launched in July 2017 by France, Germany and the EU, and designed to address both security and development challenges in the Sahel region, could be a step in the right direction, if European short-term concerns over migration and terrorism do not trump efforts to reform local governance, especially in neglected rural areas. The EU and its member states should also support government initiatives to strengthen local law and order – again critical in rural areas – through its EU Capacity Building Missions (EUCAP) Sahel Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger.

In particular, the EU, including its special representative for the Sahel, should warn governments against relying on militias as proxy counter-terrorism forces. It should instead encourage regional leaders to promote bottom-up reconciliation through local dialogues, especially in Mali. In Chad, the EU and its member states should not only pursue short-term security objectives but also seek to check, as best possible, the government’s authoritarian impulses so that political space does not shrink further.