Burkinabes Caught between a Rock and a Hard Place

Feature Article Ibrahim Traore and Roch Marc Christian Kabore
Ibrahim Traore and Roch Marc Christian Kabore

The decision by the leadership of the Ibrahim Traoré-led military junta in Ghana’s immediate northern neighbor, Burkina Faso (formerly Upper-Volta), to extend its two-year rulership by another five years must be envisaged with all the studious skepticism and anger with which this most predictable announcement has already been met by the overwhelming majority of the citizenry in that country (See “Burkina Faso’s Junta Extends Military Rule for Another Five Years” Deutsche Welle 5/26/24). We are informed to the preceding effect by Col. Moussa Diallo, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of a purported National Dialogue convened to hash out any difficulties with which this announcement might be met by an understandably disgruntled overwhelming majority of this country with an estimated population of some 23-million people.

As well, we are further informed that the leaderships of nearly every legitimately registered political party in the country boycotted what they termed as a make-believe or shambolic National Dialogue. We are also informed that the presently Acting-President, Capt. Ibrahim Traoré, will be permitted to run and be elected President in any democratic election to be held after his total of seven years in power, which expires sometime in 2029, when the now 36-year-old Mr. Traoré would have turned 41 years old and be deemed to be constitutionally mature enough to qualify to be democratically elected President of his country.

Now, this clearly and eerily sounds like an ominous dress rehearsal for a long drawn-out faux-civilianized dictatorship to come. Which would not altogether be an unfamiliar territory, as Burkina Faso has been dominated thoroughly by junta leaders for most of its 63- or 64-year-old postcolonial history, as of this writing and press preparation. But, perhaps, what is most significant to observe here is the reason given by Col. Moussa Diallo, the junta spokesman, for the decision to extend the hitherto transitional leadership of the military, namely, a seemingly intractable destabilization of this predominantly Muslim country by some Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or some such globally branded terrorist organizations, largely by the West, of course.

On the latter count must also be promptly observed that the 2022 military coup leadership that ousted the democratically elected government of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, a professional banker, also cited that government’s apparently woeful inability to effectively stem the high spate of Islamist terrorism as its raison d’etre. Which is why it can only come as rather politically mischievous for the Ibrahim Traoré junta that had also ousted a previous junta for similar reasons to be claiming that, somehow, it ought to be made an exception to the rule. Which simply means that the Traoré junta which promised to drastically reduce the high level of Islamist terrorism needs to be promptly and logically afforded the heave-ho, as it were.

Now, the sticking point here, by the fairly authoritative first-hand observers and Burkinabe national security experts and some human rights organizations’ representatives, also points to the fact of a remarkable percentage of the widely alleged incidents of deadly violence having been wantonly perpetrated by elements linked to the Traoré regime. For example, recently, the residents of several dozens of villages were reported to have been massacred by armed men suspected to have been recruited for service by the regular Burkinabe military or the Traoré government. We are also informed that at least 2 million Burkinabes have been effectively displaced from their homes by a rising tide of violence, with an unspecified number of people, running into the tens of thousands being driven to the brink of starvation.

Now, what all the preceding means is that the Traoré junta may not be doing nearly quite as well as its leadership would have the rest of the global community believe. Which, in effect, heads us back to the question of why the Burkinabe military establishment has still not been able to constructively negotiate a symbiotic and/or a synergistic governance system or arrangement, whereby a civically conscious military establishment collaborates with a democratically elected civilian government to more effectively govern the country in ways that could also ensure the significant and the appreciable development of this most economically depressed ECOWAS nation of some 23 million people.

Every indication clearly and ominously points to the near-certain likelihood of President Traoré’s abysmally failing to induce the kind of political climate that would be conducive to the holding of democratic elections by the end of 2029, when he would have ruled the country for some seven long draw-out years. Now, this may be good for the short term, that is, the junta’s decision to effectively sever all diplomatic relations with France and, in particular the expulsion of the “gold-digging” French troops from the country. But whether replacing the latter with the equally mercenary Russians is apt to redound to the long-term benefit of the Burkinabes remains to be seen.

For now, we can only hope, in the interest of ECOWAS fraternity, and sorority as well, of course, that Capt. Traoré and his men and women in uniform – if, indeed, there are any of the latter among the higher echelons of the military in that country – have made the most constructive and visionary choice of governance decision and political strategy. Ghana and the other countries in the ECOWAS Subregion ought to be seriously concerned, at least for the sake of the peace and stability of our common destiny.

*Visit my blog at: KwameOkoampaAhoofeJr

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
Professor Emeritus, Department of English
SUNY-Nassau Community College
Garden City, New York
E-mail: [email protected]

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