Throughout months of student protests, soldiers’ mutinies, merchants’ demonstrations, and other anti-regime actions, Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore has employed a mixed strategy of offering concessions, reorganizing the government, promising talks, and using repression. On June 2-3, Compaore used force against mutinous soldiers for the first time, sending his presidential guard into Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s economic capital, where mutineers had been rampaging for three days. In the aftermath of that crackdown, Compaore is taking steps that seem geared toward preventing any further protests, especially mutinies.
The hard might of the fist and the soft touch of the glove are both being felt in Bobo-Dioulasso now. Dozens of mutineers – 93, AFP reports – have been arrested there, and many will face prosecution. This move raises the stakes: would-be mutineers now know that the regime may punish them severely, as opposed to the lighter treatment mutineers got from March through May. But with force, Compaore may be able to dissuade soldiers from protesting.
The move appears to have some popular support:
Many in the capital, Ouagadougou, expressed support for the government’s actions.
This resident says the government’s reaction was late but necessary. Enough is enough, he says. Those soldiers who would rob, destroy public property and attack women are no longer soldiers and should be dealt with.
Meanwhile, the regime is trying to reduce tensions in Bobo-Dioulasso through its continued campaign of outreach to civilians:
A government delegation on Monday arrived in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second biggest city, to appease the population…The delegation, led by the minister of Territorial Administration, Decentralization and Security, Jérôme Bougouma, includes the ministers of Civil Service, Soungalo Ouattara, Justice, Jérôme Traoré, and Social Action, Clémence Traoré. It visited the family of the 14-year old girl killed by a stray bullet, the religious and community leaders and those injured and on admission at the university hospital of Sourou Sanou and announced that the government would compensate victims of the mutiny.
The number of ministers who came and the symbolic actions the delegation took show how intent the regime is on properly managing the aftermath of the mutiny. This may not be enough – merchants whose property was damaged want compensation soon, one source says – but the regime is trying hard to cut out the roots of further civilian protests.
The protests and mutinies in Burkina Faso have come in bursts and there may be more ahead. But the regime’s approach in Bobo-Dioulasso says to me that they are keen to end this protest season here, rather than riding it out as they seemed to be doing before.
For more reading on the protests, see here.