Washington, DC – Continued street protests by tens of thousands of Burkina Faso citizens and the subsequent burning of government building and looting led President Blaise Campaore to dissolve the country’s government. However, his effort to seek a negotiated settlement of the crisis failed, and he resigned and left the country. Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, is urging the military junta that has assumed control of the Burkina Faso government to take care not to prolong the uprising by entrenching military rule.
“President Compaore had been in office since 1987, and while he had been considered a helpful force in working with the international community to address challenges in the West African region, he refused to listen to his citizens on the issue of prolonging his rule, provoking the current crisis,” Smith said. “Burkina Faso experienced several coups and coup attempts before President Compaore took power in 1987, and we hope the military will now act to prevent a return to that period of turmoil.”
Both the United States and France have established military bases in Burkina Faso to combat Islamic terrorism linked to al-Qaeda in the greater Sahel region of Africa.
Burkina Faso became independent as Upper Volta in 1960, and was renamed Burkina Faso in 1984. Initial President Maurice Yameogo was overthrown in a coup by Sangoule Lamizana in 1966, who was himself overthrown by Saye Zerbo in 1980. Two more coups in 1982 and 1987 resulted in Mr. Comparore seizing power. He won four disputed elections since that time and was trying to amend the constitution to allow him to run for yet another term in office. This move was widely unpopular and caused both political opposition and street violence. Burkina Faso is now under the control of the military with army chief General Honore Traore nominally in charge.