body-container-line-1
26.11.2020 Africa

Burkina's Kabore, re-elected president struggling with insurgency

By Amaury Hauchard and Armel Bailly
Despite criticism over his failure to stem jihadist violence, Kabore scored a massive victory in the first round of voting on Sunday.  By Ludovic MARIN (POOL/AFP)
LISTEN NOV 26, 2020
Despite criticism over his failure to stem jihadist violence, Kabore scored a massive victory in the first round of voting on Sunday. By Ludovic MARIN (POOL/AFP)

Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who has won a second term as Burkina Faso's president following a landslide election win, embodied hopes for change when he took office five years ago.

But since then, enthusiasm for this affable consensus-builder has waned as the impoverished Sahel state struggles with a jihadist insurgency.

The burly 63-year-old once governed under ousted strongman Blaise Compaore, but turned his back on the regime before it cracked under the pressure of a popular revolt.

In 2015, a year after Compaore was ousted following 27 years in power, Kabore romped to the presidency with 53.49 percent of the vote in the first round.

Despite criticism of his security record, Kabore bettered that result in Sunday's election, winning 57.87 percent, the country's electoral board said on Thursday -- again obviating the need for a run-off ballot.

Opposition parties have threatened to reject the results, claiming the vote was marked by fraud and insecurity.

Seeking to tamp down tensions, Kabore promised to foster dialogue and "continuous consultation" during his next five-year term.

"We are all Burkinabe, seeking to build a better Burkina Faso together," he said.

Map of Burkina Faso.  By  (AFP) Map of Burkina Faso. By (AFP)

His 2015 win had raised hopes for development and change in Burkina Faso, whose name means "the country of honest men" in words from two local languages.

But those hopes have faded as the country reels from almost daily attacks from jihadist groups that have killed more than 1,200 people in five years.

Whole swathes of the country remain outside the state's authority. The crisis denied nearly 600,000 voters the opportunity to cast a ballot, according to the CENI electoral body.

The former banker, a devout Roman Catholic in a Muslim-majority country, has vowed to stem the violence, but the army, poorly equipped and trained, has fallen far short of that goal.

'The diesel president'

Kabore's People's Movement for Progress (MPP) likes to showcase achievements in building roads, improving health and providing access to clean water.

But such talk strikes a discordant note in a nation where one million people have fled their homes because of the jihadist violence and thousands of schools have had to close.

Blaise Compaore was ousted from the presidency in 2014 -- he now lives in exile in Ivory Coast.  By ISSOUF SANOGO (AFP/File) Blaise Compaore was ousted from the presidency in 2014 -- he now lives in exile in Ivory Coast. By ISSOUF SANOGO (AFP/File)

Kabore, a political insider, is praised by supporters for his wealth of political experience and organisational abilities.

But his detractors say he lacks a grip on the country and events have outpaced him.

A diplomat in the neighbouring Ivory Coast said he "is a kind of diffident king who holds plenty of meetings and listens from his armchair without taking decisions."

Opposition figure Fousseny Ouedraogo said Kabore's presidency began "laboriously" and he "didn't seem to how to steer the ship".

Citing how long it took Kabore to appoint a prime minister and reshuffle his government, Ouedraogo said the president had the nickname the "diesel president" for how slowly he takes to get going.

Studied in France

During Compaore's reign Kabore was appointed minister several times and prime minister from 1994-1996.

Kabore was a follower of Burkina Faso's charismatic leader Thomas Sankara, who was killed in 1987.  By OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT (AFP/File) Kabore was a follower of Burkina Faso's charismatic leader Thomas Sankara, who was killed in 1987. By OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT (AFP/File)

He led the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party for more than a decade and was seen as Compaore's likely heir, even counting himself among the group that in 2010 began amending the constitution to keep the strongman in power.

But Kabore abruptly fell out of favour in 2012 and was tossed out of the leadership to become a mere "political adviser" -- a move that eventually proved to be a blessing in disguise.

Early in 2014, Kabore broke with the CDP to form the MPP, catapulting him to power in a vote widely seen as sealing the transition to democracy.

As a student in the French city of Dijon, Kabore was a committed leftist, and when Burkina's revered Marxist leader Thomas Sankara took power, he became the director of the International Bank of Burkina before he had even turned 30.

When Sankara was gunned down in 1987, Compaore took the reins.

ModernGhana Links
body-container-line