MS Risk Blog

Burkina Faso Leader Dismisses Two-Week Deadline

Posted on in Burkina Faso title_rule

Despite agreeing to a one-year political transition, with presidential elections to be held in November 2015, Burkina Faso’s interim leader has dismissed the African Union’s (AU) imposition of a two-week deadline to hand power to civilians.

Following crisis talks on Wednesday, Burkina Faso’s army, politicians and society leaders agreed to a one-year political transition, with presidential elections to be held in November 2015. While the talks, which were mediated by three West African presidents and also attended by religious and tribal chiefs, failed to name a leader that will head the transitional government, a statement released late Wednesday indicated that all parties had agreed that an “eminent civilian personality” should take the job. Burkina Faso’s interim leader however announced late Thursday that he was not concerned by the AU’s two-week deadline, stating, “we are not afraid of sanctions, we care much more about stability.”

The talks on Wednesday had initially started off rocky, with opposition leaders storming out in protest over the possible involvement of loyalists of former president Blaise Compaore in any provisional government. The opposition’s main leader Zephirin Diabre had also objected to a proposal by the three West African leaders that each group submit three candidates for a transitional government. While security guards intervened, in a bid to prevent the talks from ending in violence, both the opposition and civil society representatives were later persuaded to return to negotiations with all sides, including the current interim leader Lt Col Isaac Zida, welcoming the final agreement. Speaking shortly after the meeting, Lt Col Zida disclosed that the talks “…went very well,” adding that he hoped the teams would be able to “find a solution in order to achieve a civilian transition.”

Despite the meeting ending without a decision on who might be the transitional leader, Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama indicated that he expected a transitional government to be installed in Burkina Faso in a matter of days. President Mahama and his Nigerian counterpart Goodluck Jonathan and Senegal’s President Macky Sall, who the West African regional body ECOWAS has appointed to lead mediation efforts, travelled to Ouagadougou early Wednesday to mediate the talks and to press for a swift handover of power back to civilians.

There has been mounting international pressure on Lt Col Zida and the military to return the country to civilian rule, with the AU threatening sanctions and Canada earlier this week withdrawing much-needed aid. Despite announcing Tuesday that he would restore civilian rule with two weeks, late Thursday, Lt Col Zida disclosed that he was not concerned by the AU’s deadline, stating “we have waited on the African Union in moments when it should have shown its fraternity and its friendship but instead was not there.” A failure to meet the AU’s deadline could have significant consequences for the West African country and may result in further protests. The AU’s sanctions could include suspension of Burkina Faso’s AU membership and travel ban on military officials. The AU’s Peace and Security Council is expected to meet later this month in order to discuss the crisis.

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