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The Economist | The coup in Burkina Faso follows the usual script

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Posted September 18, 2015 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in African News ~ 1,415 views

     

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IN A small African country, soldiers seize the president they are meant to be protecting and dissolve the government. More take control of the TV and radio stations. A burly man in a military uniform issues a statement on TV and radio to explain that for the sake of democracy and the state of the nation, the army has intervened to stop the despotic, immoral government. International outrage follows, as do protests at home. A curfew is imposed; the airport shut down; people shot in the streets. Few are quite sure what is happening.

It is clichéd stuff. But it keeps happening, almost exactly to the playbook: in May in Burundi, for instance. On September 17th the drama unfolded in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country of 17m in West Africa. Michel Kafando, the interim president since last October, and several other members of his government, were arrested by the presidential guard. A spokesman, complete with awkward uniform, appeared on television to announce that the “National Council for Democracy” has decided it necessary to put to an end the temporary government. A general, Gilbert Diendéré (pictured), declared himself the country’s new leader. Protests were put down, with three people apparently killed after a curfew was imposed last night.

The proximate cause for the upheaval in Burkina Faso is presidential power and term limits. Mr Diendéré is a close ally of the former president, Blaise Compaoré, who was eased aside last October after 27 years in power. Mr Compaoré had attempted to introduce a law abolishing Burkina Faso’s two term limit, which would have made him ineligible to run in the 2015 elections. The attempt sparked protesters to set fire to the parliament building and to seize the state television station. The military (as distinct from the presidential guard) then intervened against Mr Compaoré, persuading him to resign and promising elections within a year.

These were scheduled for 11th October, but now seem unlikely to happen. The coup on September 17th seems to have been prompted in part by a law passed by the transitional government in effect forbidding assembly members who had voted to abolish term limits—and so many members of Mr Compaoré’s government—from running. As a Crisis Group briefing published in June warned, this was a recipe for instability, “injecting the poison of political exclusion into a country that is attached to multi-party politics and dialogue.” Instead of resorting to lawsuits and appeals, the excluded parties seem to have gone for the gun.

The fight over presidential power—and the sometimes destabilising effects of term limits—are hardly unique. Burundi, a country in East Africa, wedged between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, has been in chaos since May, when a general attempted to dismiss the president while he was out of the country (the president declared himself undismissed and promptly flew back). Term limits have also been a cause of arguments in Rwanda, where Paul Kagame, the president since 2000, wants to change the constitution so he can run again in 2017, and in Congo-Brazzaville, where presidential elections are scheduled for next year, though neither country has experienced the sort of violence that has upset Burkina Faso and Burundi.

Not everywhere are term limits a disaster. Many African countries with stronger states have been able to resist changes to term limits by presidents hoping to hang on. In Nigeria, Zambia and Malawi for example. In many more countries still, such as Kenya, several long-serving presidents have stepped aside reluctantly thanks to term limit provisions. The problem, as ever, is not so much with the existence of laws as with the failure to uphold them.

Source — The Economist


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Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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