Colonel Jean-Baptiste Natama, Director of the Cabinet of the Chair of the African Commissionin Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, was the first to declare himself as candidate for the October 2015 elections.
Then, Djibril Bassole, the only general of the Burkina gendarmerie, and former minister of Foreign affairs announced that he will be a candidate. After that, Colonel Yacouba Ouedraogo, former minister of Sports came out and did the same. Prior to all of them, a former Corporal of the Presidential Security Regiment (PSR), Roland Tonde, had clearly expressed his ambitions for national leadership.
Lastly, it seems that the political party (Congress for Democracy and Progress) that was pushed out of power by the October 2014 mass insurrection had threatened to nominate General Gilbert Diendere, Commander-in-chief of PSR and close associate to the former Burkina Faso head of state, Blaise Compaore.
Is this growing number of military candidates a message sent by the army to civilians? Since the army has enjoyed the delicious privileges of power from 1966 to 2014, would they want to stay forever?
Five Military Candidates
In the upcoming October during the presidential and parliamentary elections the Burkinabe will be divided into two groups: the partisans of the army on the one hand, and the partisans of a civilian regime on the other.
With five military candidates already known, the army is determined to play a key role during this political event. Even if each candidate was to get only 5% of the votes, this would make them political leaders to court in case of a run off.
Civilian political women and men should get the warning: once more, the State leadership could escape them! Maybe this determination to cling to power was expressed right the day after the resurrection.
As a matter of fact, lieutenant-colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida had quickly overshadowed the chief of staff of the army, General Honoré Traoré, thanks to the support of the Presidential Security Regiment and some political parties under the leader of the political opposition.
He had appointed himself head of State, and President of the Transition. It was only the pressure from the entire population and the international community that had forced him to resign. In reality, this was a strategy he had used as a springboard. Under his order, the diplomat Michel Kafandowas appointed to replace him.
Once this was professionally arranged, Yacouba Zida imposed himself as Prime Minister and minister of defense. In addition to these key posts, the military holds three ministerial positions including two strategic ones:Territorial administration, Decentralization, and Security; and the Mining and energy
The provisional parliament, known as National Transition Council, there are 24 military out of the 90 members, that is, more than one-quarter of this non-elected “parliament.”
This control of the transition by the army was made possible with the support of political parties that were opposed to Blaise Compaore’s regime. In compensation they had hoped that, with the downfall of the former regime, the army would just lead the transition, organize elections and leave the political arena. That was big mistake!
There was a twist to the situation on December 2014. While de weekly cabinet meeting was in progress, the Prime minister’s brothers-in-arms of the Presidential Security Regiment summoned the Prime minister to their barracks. He was to show up without delay.
When he arrived the atmosphere was tense, dangerous and deadly. His former colleagues challenged him and started reminding him that they were the one who had made him the king. They therefore demanded his immediate resignation as Prime minister. The same demand applied to the powerful minister of territorial administration, decentralization, and security, Colonel Auguste Denise Barry.
They also wished to know what the Transition regime would decide for their future as rumors had it that their regiment would be dismantled because of their allegedly implications in blood crime under the 27-year BlaiseCompaore regime. Their concern is to keep their privileges as a special force: better armament, better pay, and to be almost independent from the other armed forces.
The former president, their sponsor used to grant them an allowance that the Prime minister is suspected to rescind. They demanded immediate payment and the hostage of the day complied. Lastly, they imposed two appointments:one, for the new Chief of Staff of the interim president’s and a second for the new chief the Presidential Security Regiment. He was given a deadline to implement these demands!
Nationwide, this was quite a huge surprise as the population was directly informed by the mass media. Therefore, the actual power was neither in the hands of the president of the transition nor even in the hands of the prime minister, an army officer, who was humiliated by his former colleagues. But that was not the end of the story.
Tired of waiting for the satisfaction of their requests, the Presidential Security Regiment decided to move ahead as a way of expressing their anger and demonstrating their power.
On February 4, 2015, the Prime Minister and his security guards had to take refuge at the Palace of the Mogho-Naaba, Emperor of the Mossi, the majority ethnic group in the country.
The life of the Prime minister was allegedly threatened if, for the weekly cabinet meeting, he ever daresto show up at Kosyam, the cozy president’s Palace in Burkina Faso. As a matter of fact, no cabinet meeting was held that day!
As civil society organizations were watching out, they organized a demonstration at the Place de la Revolution by way of support to the Prime Minister.
The international community also joined in the support. The US ambassador to Burkina Faso, Tulinabo Salama Mushingi, made it clear, from Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city in the country: “I am aware of what is happening in Ouagadougou. (… ) I will continue to watch the situation, express my opinion, and monitor how the situation will be managed… “
Since the beginning of the political crisis in Burkina Faso in 2013, that ambassador is the Burkina most appreciated diplomat because of her commitment to the respect of the constitution that the former regime wanted to change just to keep the president in power.
This is what had forced him to resign. During the extraordinary demonstration of October 30 and 31, that toppled Blaise Compaore from power, it is US President, Barack Obama, who had warned the military not to use weapons against the demonstrators.
Then, a sign that the Presidential Regiment understood easily, was the presence of the US ambassador in Bobo-Dioulasso to donate important military equipment to the anti-terrorism unit of the 25th regiment of parachute commandos, estimated at 3,500,000 USD or 1,750,000,000 CFA Francs. In addition, the diplomat has had discussions with her fellow citizen who are among the instructors.
In the evening of the same day, and by coincidence, the Under Secretary General of the UN, in charge of political affairs, the American Jeffrey Feltman, paid a visit to the President of the Transition and almost warned afterwards: “The international community will not tolerate any obstacle to the transition”.
He was shown on TV with on his side the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, and the UNDP Resident Representative in Burkina Faso, Pascal Karorero. All this is a symbol.
It is in this heavy and foggy atmosphere that a rumor was spreading about that the former leading political party, CDP, could nominate General Gilbert Diendere, the Commander-in-chief of the Presidential Security Regiment, as their candidate for the forthcoming presidential elections, which means a fifth military candidate.
All these are signs showing that the Burkina military do not, at all, want to quit the political arena. Will civilian political women and men be able to stop this inclination with one single candidate during the first round of the election? This is a huge challenge. This would not be a difficult exercise if the egos did not appear to be oversized and, ambitions sharpened to the maximum…
André Marie Pouya