Last week, 75 officials resigned from Burkina Faso’s ruling party, citing the disappearance of democracy under President Blaise Compaore. In an email interview, Michael Keating, a lecturer in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance and director of operations at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development at the McCormack Graduate School at University of Massachusetts, Boston, explained the state of political opposition in Burkina Faso.
WPR: What has been the general state of political opposition and dissent in Burkina Faso in recent years?
Michael Keating: Burkina Faso is one of the most underreported countries in the world, particularly in the English-language press. Coming to power after the assassination of the charismatic Thomas Sankara in 1987, current Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore has ruled Burkina Faso with a potent mix of patronage, intimidation and nimbleness that has kept the country from succumbing to some of the more devastating ills afflicting its West African neighbors. His governing style, however, has all but closed down the possibility of real democratic expression. Furthermore, the turmoil in Cote d'Ivoire and Mali, both neighbors of Burkina Faso, has allowed Compaore to use the strategic location of his country to invite in U.S. and French military and intelligence operations to monitor the chaos across its borders. He has been rewarded generously by his patrons, both financially and also by their turning a blind eye to his autocratic excesses. As a result, when the opposition has periodically decided it has had enough, there have been a few eruptions of protests and even violence, but they have been short-lived and largely ineffective, and have barely raised an eyebrow in Washington or Paris.