The Social Democratic Party “Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès” (CDP) has ruled the country for 23 years, and President Blaise Compaoré has been re-elected three times. In November 2010, a new presidential election is planned. The Burkina Faso diplomacy, with President Blaise Compaoré at the helm, has recently contributed as a mediator in the political crisis in Guinea and has had a mediator role in Togo and Ivory Coast in recent years. The capital and several provinces were hit by floods in September 2009.
On October 15, 1987, current President Blaise Compaoré led a coup against his closest associate; President Thomas Sankara. The coup overturned Sankara’s revolutionary and socialist regime from 1983. After four new coups, the country again had a constitution in 1991, and Blaise Compaoré became a civilian elected president the same year.
Compaoré was re-elected third-time president in November 2005. He received 80 percent of the vote and water over 11 other candidates. One contributing cause was a split opposition. At the 2007 parliamentary elections, the ruling party CDP received 65.7 percent of the representatives. A change of election law made it difficult for small parties to get representatives.
External and internal dissatisfaction with the ruling party
The widespread dissatisfaction with the ruling party following the unresolved murder of journalist Norbert Zongo in 1998 peaked again in 2006, when the charge against one of the president’s security guards, deputy Marcel Kafando, was withdrawn. The dissatisfaction seems to have been mitigated through the various reconciliation strategies of the president and the ruling party. Marcel Kafando also died in 2009 while atoning for the murder of the driver of the president’s brother, David Ouedraogo.
It surprised many when Agriculture Minister Salif Diallo was replaced in 2008. He has been one of the closest supporter of the president for a long time, and until recently he was the person who had the most power after the president. He was suspended from the party in 2009, after appearing in an interview as he advocated political system changes to give parliament greater power through the prime minister’s executive power and the president’s ceremonial power.
In 2009, the CDP was further weakened when six senior leaders in the party emerged and formed a new opposition party, the “Convention nationale du progrès du Burkina” (CNPB). The future will show whether this has more consequences for the party internally, or for the external support through the party alliance that now supports the president or for the Blaise Compaoré civil society association, the Fédération associative pour la paix et le progrès avec Blaise Compaoré (FEDAP-BC).
International mediation role
The relationship with the Ivory Coast was severely worsened by the forthcoming enemy attacks on Burkinians in Ivory Coast and the Burmese support for Ivorian rebels from 1999 onwards. This has now changed for the better, after President Compaoré was appointed mediator between the governments and the rebels in Ivory Coast. This led to the Ouagadougou Agreement in March 2007.
In 2006, President Compaoré was a mediator in Togo, where there was a crisis between the opposition and the government, after the son of former president cupping power when his father died in 2005. In June 2008, Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Djibril Bassolé was appointed mediates in the Darfur crisis by the UN and the African Union (AU defined on abbreviationfinder.org).
Following the massacres in Guinea on September 2, 2009, President Compaoré was asked to mediate in the political crisis of the La Communauté Economique Des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO). While peace talks between the military regime and the opposition were ongoing in Ouagadougou, the military president Dadis was subjected to assassination attempts in Guinea. This led to a break in the negotiations. After receiving treatment in Morocco, the president returned to Burkina Faso for a re-election in January 2010.
Living standards, press freedom and corruption
The living standards in Burkina Faso are one of the lowest in the world. The country ranks 177th out of 182 countries on the UNDP Development Index (HDI). 56.5 percent of the people live for less than $ 1.25 a day (2000-2007). 28 percent (2006) of people do not have access to clean drinking water and 37 percent of children under 5 years are underweight (2000-2006). The Government has started a major investment in education and health care with the help of money from debt relief, loans and donors.
The murder of journalist Norbert Zongo triggered a free press and the country was ranked 57th out of 175 when it comes to press freedom in 2009.
According to Transparency International ‘s Corruption Index (CPI), Burkina Faso ranks 79th out of 180 countries. Tertus Zongo, new Prime Minister of 2007, has said he wants to prioritize the fight against corruption, and in 2008 the government put in place a higher authority to work against corruption.
A growing economy, but vulnerable
In 2005, 84 percent of the labor force was employed in agriculture, 5 percent in industry and 11 percent before services. Between 2005 and 2007, economic growth in gross domestic product (GDP) averaged 4.6 percent. The projections for 2008 and 2009 were 5.2 percent and 4.2 percent. Cotton production has grown tremendously since 1999, and the country became the largest cotton producer in sub-Saharan Africa in 2006. The country has large unused mineral resources and gold mining is now recovering. In 2007, the three largest export goods were cotton, gold and charity nuts.
In 2008, grain shortages in the world market, as well as high oil prices, created a price increase on domestically produced and imported food. On this occasion there were several demonstrations all over the country. In 2000 and 2002, the country recovered debt from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and in 2006 debt was forgiven by the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
In September 2009, there was a flood in Ouagadougou and some provinces. 150,000 people lost their homes in Ouagadougou. Dozens of people lose their lives. The flood caused major damage to houses, roads, bridges, public buildings and ponds, and disturbed water and energy supplies. The authorities have worked with their own means and with the help of donations to rebuild the lost and take care of the homeless.
Until the presidential election in November 2010, one may ask several questions. Will Blaise Compaoré stand as presidential candidate? Will the CDP and the presidential candidate hold on to the broad support of the party alliance and federation, or will other presidential candidates receive greater support than the former? Will the opposition manage to unite with a few few presidential candidates so they can have the opportunity to win? Will the introduction of identity cards to vote in the presidential election have anything to say about the election result? Will the CDP step in to change the constitution to give more power to parliament before the next presidential election or in the future?
Area: 274 222 km2 (28th largest)
Population: 15 million
Population density: 56 per km2
Urban population: 19 percent
Largest city: Ouagadougou – approx. 1.2 million
GDP per capita: $ 521.8
Economic growth: 4.5 percent
HDI Position: 177