Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba resigned alongside his entire cabinet, without an official explanation given. The resignation was accepted in a statement by President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who appointed Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire as Thieba’s successor. Dabire was a minister for health from 1992 to 1997 and more recently the Commissioner for regional commerce and cooperation of the West African Economic and Monetary Union.
Thieba had come under criticism for a deteriorating security situation as militant groups extended their presence and networks from Mali into Burkina Faso for the past years. After a first high profile attack in the capital Ouagadougou in 2016, militants carried out roughly 200 attacks in 2018, displacing 54,000 people, killing scores of people and abducting several foreigners.
Burkina Faso’s authorities have clearly been overwhelmed by the developments, despite substantial French and US military and intelligence cooperation. Militants are taking advantage of an underdeveloped state presence in the country’s periphery, due to decades-long neglect under President Blaise Compaore, who stepped down amid protests in 2014 after 27 years in power.
Thieba was chosen primarily because of his credentials as an economist, highlighting President Kabore’s desire to kickstart the economy after the 2014 revolution. The Prime Minister was probably ill-prepared for a fight against well-resourced and battle hardened islamists and had to deal with a security apparatus that was essentially beheaded during the events of 2014. Designating a new prime minister who is better prepared for this challenge could prove beneficial. Dabire’s credentials in regional cooperation are certainly relevant, as the fight against militants has to be seen in a cross-border context.
The bad: The reason that militants are able to establish their presence so freely throughout Burkina Faso is exactly the economic underdevelopment and absence of the state that Thieba was brought in to resolve. If his resignation is the beginning of an exclusive focus on security provision, the structural reasons for the crisis will strengthen.
The future: Burkina Faso can draw on substantial military support in the forms of Special Forces and intelligence from France and the US. But it will have to find answers to its problems of governance on its own terms. Dabire’s choice for the relevant ministries, as well a clearly articulated and realistic strategy to tackle the complex development and security crisis facing Burkina Faso, will be crucial.