Observations from Ouagadougou: The Days before the Election

[This guest post is part of a series on Burkina Faso’s 2015 Elections. My colleague Daniel Eizenga, a Research Associate with the Sahel Research Group and Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Florida, has been based in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou since August 2015 conducting dissertation research. He has generously offered to share his observations from the ground as the elections take place. Readers and journalists may contact Dan at: deizenga at ufl dot edu.  – Alex]

Date: Thursday, November 26, 2015 at 4:33 PM UTC

With only a few days left before presidential and legislative elections take place Sunday, 29 November, political campaigns in Burkina Faso are in full swing. So, I thought I’d offer some observations on a few of the big issues confronting political parties, candidates, and voters ahead of Election Day.

There are fourteen candidates making a run for the presidential palace, but most analysts and Burkinabè agree that the two front runners for the presidential election are the Union pour le Progrès et le Changement’s (UPC) Zéphirin Diabré and the Mouvement du Peuple pour le Progrès’s (MPP) Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. Both candidates have been considered the most likely to win since the current transitional government was established in November 2014. Since the official campaign began over two weeks ago, both presidential candidates have gone to great lengths to distance themselves from the former ruling party, the Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès (CDP). Yet in reality, neither party offers much of a change.

The MPP’s strategy relies primarily on touting the fact that the party formed following the massive resignation of former CDP members who stood up to former president Blaise Compaoré’s attempt to remain in power. The subsequent creation of the MPP and its outspoken opposition to another term for Compaoré, helped to insure that it was not excluded from the upcoming elections like other former CDP-supporters and party members. It’s also helped the MPP, a party composed almost entirely of former CDP members, distance themselves from association with the former regime, despite the active role its leaders played in Compaoré’s government for decades.

The three leaders of the MPP—Kaboré, Salif Diallo and Simon Compaoré— are all well-known politicians who worked very closely with the Compaoré regime in which each held at different times leadership positions. In fact in 2010, Kaboré, as the president of the CDP, was one of the first public figures to openly call for Compaoré to modify the constitution and run for another term. And, while in general, it is unpopular to be associated with the former ruling party, it is precisely the MPP’s direct connection to the CDP which is responsible for its potential electoral strength.

After twenty-seven years as the ruling party, the CDP developed a massive network of both human and financial resources. Kaboré, Diallo, and Simon Compaoré, long-time party barons of the CDP, brought much of that resource base with them when they led the resignation movement in January 2014.

In addition to their resource base, the MPP’s leadership also profits from a more intangible political good: their reputation. The leaders of the MPP often publically reference their experience managing the administration of the state and government when comparing themselves to their political opponents. And it’s true that they are amongst the few candidates who can claim to have experience governing the country, but behind these multi-layered references is also a warning to their political foes: join us and reap the rewards, cross us and face the consequences.

When the leaders of the MPP were leaders of the CDP, they were well known for their patronage and in contrast, their retribution. As one Burkinabè businesswoman told me, “The people are scared of the MPP…that’s why no one talks about how close they were with Compaoré. [Kaboré and Diallo] only care about getting their political revenge and they will humiliate anyone in their way.”

It seems that in a slightly ironic twist, the past semi-authoritarian practices of the CDP remain so pervasive in Burkinabè political memory that the MPP leaders can now denounce the former ruling party and simultaneously benefit from the role they played in both its rise to power and its fall from grace.

Meanwhile, the UPC and Diabré continue to trumpet their role as the leader of the political opposition during the last two years of Compaoré’s rule. The party often cites Diabré’s former position as the Chef de File de l’Opposition and his role in organizing and leading demonstrations and protests against Compaoré’s bid to modify the constitution. Following legislative elections in 2012, the UPC won more seats in the National Assembly than any other single opposition party had ever won against the CDP. Yet, the UPC remains a fairly new political party without a long track-record in Burkinabè politics.

Diabré is well known, but prior to 2010 he held the position of Economic Advisor to then president Compaoré. Following his advisory position he accepted an international post with the UNDP and later the French Uranium company AREVA. Many suspect that Diabré’s success internationally can be credited to Compaoré’s personal connections.

Diabré and the UPC were ardent critics of the CDP and Compaoré over the last four years and they helped lead the opposition movement against Compaoré’s attempt to modify the constitution. Nevertheless, they continue to face challenges from other opposition figures because of Diabré’s past connections to the CDP regime.

Perhaps more damaging than his past connections to Compaoré and the CDP, however, are the recent accusations that the CDP joined Coalition Zéph 2015—a coalition of parties and organizations supporting Diabré’s presidential candidacy. The UPC has denounced these rumors on several occasions and Diabré himself disavowed any formal agreement with the CDP. Still, the damage might already be done.

The politics of the situation are such that, however unlikely it might be that the CDP would support the UPC, it’s even more unlikely that the former ruling party would support the MPP. Given that the leaders of the MPP led the massive sortie from the CDP and then actively worked against the former ruling party, most acknowledge that there is no possibility of the political parties cooperating together. As one political activist pointed out to me: “the CDP will never accept an [MPP] victory. [The CDP and its allies] will support anyone other than the MPP for president.”

In light of that common assumption, rumors of a UPC-CDP alliance have gained significant traction during the campaign. Even if no formal agreement is made between the UPC and CDP, it stands to reason that the UPC will receive the CDP’s support, simply because the UPC presents the most viable threat to the MPP. Prior to the fall of the Compaoré regime, it would have been incredibly difficult to imagine that one of the UPC’s supporters would end up being the party it was then in opposition against, but so goes the Burkinabè political circus.

Following the massive rejection of the failed coup in September, one might think the parties and candidates with no past connections to the CDP might have the best chance at winning this coming Sunday, but they’d be mistaken. The probability of a candidate who never collaborated with or profited from the former regime emerging victorious seems slim at best. Partially because the political atmosphere in Burkina Faso remains very divisive and partially because the presidential candidates with no past connections have failed to establish a cohesive coalition of electoral support behind a single candidate.

Some high-profile members of civil society—who protested the authoritarian nature of the Compaoré regime as far back as the late 1990s—have gone so far as to suggest that it may be better not to vote at all. Chrysogone Zougmoré, first vice-president of Coalition nationale de lutte Contre la Vie Chère and leader of the prominent human rights association, Mouvement Burkinabè des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, went so far as to state that voting was not compulsory and that those Burkinabè, like himself, who did not feel adequately represented by any of the candidates’ campaigns, would not vote. Other civil society organizations are calling on their supporters to boycott the elections altogether.

Oddly enough, those, like Zougmoré, who will not vote because they feel none of the campaigns offer a viable change from the past regime, might be joined by others who are not voting for an entirely different reason: there is no CDP candidate. Today a die-hard CDP supporter informed me that she will be voting for the CDP in the legislative elections, but plans to cast a blank ballot for the presidential poll.

I regularly meet those who do not support the exclusion of the CDP from the electoral process. For some, they oppose the exclusion because they view it is as anti-democratic in principle, but for many others they oppose it because it bars their ideal candidate from taking part in elections. Thus, in one final twist, it seems those most opposed to the former regime may end up joining those most in support of former ruling party by opting out of the presidential election.

It’s difficult to guess what results these historic elections will produce, but one thing is certain: Burkinabè politics are living up to their reputation for the improbable and unexpected.

Buhari and the Perm Secs

BBC, August 29:

It is now three months since Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president of Nigeria and five months since he won historic elections, the first time an opposition candidate had won…But it took nearly two months for him to replace his security chiefs and so far he has only made appointments in about a dozen government offices.


While it is clear that President Buhari has shown that Nigeria can run without a cabinet, there may be an unacknowledged cost.

On the bright side, with the briefings he is getting from civil servants, the ministers, when they are eventually appointed, will find that their boss knows more about their departments than they do – and that should keep them on their toes.

Vanguard, November 10:

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, approved the appointment of new Permanent Secretaries in the Federal Civil Service.

This came some hours after the President sacked about 17 permanent secretaries.

Permanent Secretaries are, in theory, civil servants who are not political appointees. This does mean they are immune from political controversies, however.

As the BBC said, the months without a cabinet may have allowed Buhari to interact more directly with senior civil servants than presidents usually do. Apparently the president did not always like what he saw.

Talk by Dr. Usman Bugaje at Johns Hopkins SAIS This Wednesday

If you happen to be in Washington, DC this Wednesday, November 4, consider attending a talk by Dr. Usman Bugaje, a prominent northern Nigerian scholar and politician who has served in the House of Representatives and as adviser to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Bugaje is currently Convener of the Arewa Research and Development Project.

Bugaje will speak on “Democracy and the Challenge of Political Change in Nigeria” at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies from 12:30-1:45pm on Wednesday. The talk will be in Room 736, Bernstein-Offit Building, 1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.

The End of the Political Crisis in Burkina Faso: Observations from Ouagadougou

[This guest post is part of a series on Burkina Faso’s ongoing political turmoil. My colleague Daniel Eizenga, a Research Associate with the Sahel Research Group and Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Florida, has been based in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou since before the coup of September 17 conducting dissertation research. He has generously offered to share his updates from the ground as the situation evolves. Readers and journalists may contact Dan at: deizenga at ufl dot edu.  – Alex]

Date: Friday, October 2, 2015 at 5:43 PM UTC

Since the surrender of the RSP on 30 September, a number of things occurred which suggest that the political crisis in Burkina Faso has finally come to a close. After the week-long coup and then the dramatic events in which the RSP refused to disarm, the political transition emerged not only victorious, but stronger.

General Diendéré, the coup leader, was taken into custody by the National Gendarmerie yesterday after negotiating with authorities for his, and his family’s safety. A few hours prior to the military assault on the RSP base, Naba Koom II, which forced RSP to surrender, Diendéré sought refuge at the Vatican Embassy. From the diplomatic branch of the Catholic Church, Diendéré called on his fellow RSP soldiers to surrender and began negotiating his personal surrender with Burkinabé authorities.

Today, the Vatican Embassy clarified that Diendéré did not request asylum or exfiltration from the country, and had he, the Embassy would have denied it given the stance of the transitional government. The Vatican’s representative in Burkina Faso justified their actions by citing their ecclesial mission to promote social peace. The Embassy went on to note that from the outset of granting his refuge, Diendéré agreed to hand himself over to Burkinbè authorities. Others participated in the negotiations as well including the American Ambassador, Tulinabo Mushingui, Archbishop Phillipe Ouédraogo, and former president Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo. The announcement comes after many criticized the Embassy for protecting Diendéré.

In addition to Diendéré’s arrest, two other arrests took place in the last forty-eight hours. First and unsurprisingly, the spokesperson for the National Council for Democracy—the RSP established governing body during the coup—Mamadou Bamba, was placed under arrest and now awaits his hearing with the justice system. Bamba’s assets were frozen by the Court of Appeals this past Saturday along with Diendéré’s, Gen. Djibrill Bassolé’s—arrested this past Tuesday—and eleven other individuals’.

More surprisingly, authorities at the international airport in Ouagadougou detained and questioned the vice president of the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), Mahamadou Djéri Maiga last night. The MNLA is a Tuareg separatist organization which arose during the 2012 Malian political crisis.  Apparently, suspected of involvement in Bassolé and Diendéré’s accused attempts of calling on foreign fighters to destabilize the country, Maiga remained in the custody of Burkinabè officials for several hours before being released to his residence in Ouagadougou. So far, the government has provided no evidence that Bassolé or Diendéré reached out to foreign or jihadi fighters, despite their accusations. Personally, I find it difficult to believe, but as I’ve been frequently reminded: politics in Burkina Faso tend to surprise.

These arrests demonstrate a clear effort from the government to rapidly bring those involved in the coup to justice. The special investigation commission into the coup also got underway this week scheduling a number hearings with those already implicated in the coup events. The commission’s mandate will last one month.

Meanwhile, the political activists who previously comprised the ‘Collective against Exclusion’ remodeled themselves as the ‘Collective for a United People’ in a clear attempt to distance the group from the aftermath of the coup. As some civil society organizations were quick to point out, the pro-inclusion group also changed its message. Only three months ago the then ‘Collective against Exclusion’ rejected any reform of the RSP, however in a recent press conference the now ‘Collective for a United People’ saluted the dismantlement of the former presidential guard and condemned the coup. Clearly, popular opinion matters.

The dissolution of the RSP, the reintegration of some 800 RSP soldiers into the regular army, and the indictment of several high profile actors for their involvement in the failed coup, not only suggests that the transition weathered the storm, but popular support for the transition seems to have strengthened, perhaps even, emboldened it. If that’s the case, one potential challenge facing the Burkinabè people might become the need to insure that the political transition remains just that, a transition. A new date for elections continues to be promised but undelivered. Obviously, failing to schedule elections in the tumultuous situation which unfolded over the course of the last weeks is understandable. However, it would be worrying if in the next week an election date, regardless of delay, remains unannounced.

Still, the restoration and renewed strength of the political transition bodes well for Burkina Faso. The willingness of the Burkinabè people to defend their democratic transition even in the face of violence brought its brief political crisis to a close. Now, in the aftermath of the crisis, the Burkinabè people will need to stay vigilant and hold the political transition accountable to its purpose: peaceful, free, fair, dare I say, democratic elections. Let’s hope the leaders of the transition are up to the task.

The Evolving Political Crisis in Burkina Faso: Observations from Ouagadougou, continued

[This guest post is part of a series on Burkina Faso’s ongoing political turmoil. My colleague Daniel Eizenga, a Research Associate with the Sahel Research Group and Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Florida, has been based in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou since before the coup of September 17 conducting dissertation research. He has generously offered to share his updates from the ground as the situation evolves. Readers and journalists may contact Dan at: deizenga at ufl dot edu.  – Alex]

Date: Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 7:12 PM UTC

Well, after waiting all day for an official announcement from the government or military on the results of last night’s military operation, here’s what we know. Bear in mind this may change in the next few hours, days, or weeks, depending on how the government decides to handle the release of information.

Late yesterday evening, the regular army attacked the barracks of the RSP at military camp Naba Koom II, located close to the presidential palace. The operation succeeded in forcing the surrender of RSP troops. As I noted yesterday, Gen. Diendéré himself took to the airways of local radio stations imploring the soldiers of the RSP to lay down their arms to avoid further bloodshed.

Diendéré himself fled the barracks, reportedly seeking refuge with the Vatican Embassy. Initial reports suggested he might have sought shelter at the American Embassy, but US diplomats quickly took to social media to deny these claims. Although he stated publically that he is willing to present himself before the Burkinabè justice system, it appears that he is attempting to negotiate certain assurances for himself before turning himself over to authorities. This negotiation occurred throughout today and he remains at the Vatican Embassy.

Diendéré, presumably from his place of refuge, denounced the military’s actions today stressing that the assault likely resulted in the loss of innocent lives. He based this claim on the fact that the military fired heavy artillery and tank shells during the attack which, in addition to killing RSP soldiers, he suspected also damaged an on-site military clinic and may have also caused causalities amongst the families living on the base. Only minutes ago, interim President Kafando announced that the operation resulted in no causalities–it remains unclear how many soldiers and/or other individuals were wounded in the attack.

The government’s actions have yet to prompt applause throughout Burkinabè society. Indeed, some called the government’s decision to hastily dissolve the RSP into question, suggesting that prolonging the dismantlement might have helped to avoid the conflict. On the other hand, the transitional government now seems to have reasserted its complete control over the situation, in what I would deem a clear power-play from Zida and Kafando. To the government’s credit, they did issue several warnings while the military laid siege to RSP’s camp for hours prior to the assault which offered RSP soldiers ample time to surrender.

During the night and most of today, the military claimed to be combing through the Naba Koom base to ensure that there were no RSP holdouts. It remains unknown whether any elements of the RSP were able to slip through the siege and escape Ouagadougou, but this also does not appear to be a major—or at least it’s not a publically acknowledged—concern of the military or the transitional government.

Businesses mostly resumed their normal activities today throughout Ouagadougou. One exception being Ouaga 2000 where there continues to be a large military presence. Another exception to quotidian life took the form of increased military checkpoints throughout Ouagadougou—military checkpoints are typically quite rare within the city. Still, with the suspension of the general strike and most of the military activity confined to Ouaga 2000, most Burkinabè and local businesses finally recommenced their pre-coup activities.

If the government acted hastily to resolve the question of the RSP, they continue to drag their feet on the question of the electoral calendar. With that said, there is also significantly less pressure from popular opinion and political actors to reschedule the elections. The elections, originally scheduled for 11 October, are now likely to be delayed for several weeks according to Prime Minister Zida.

A representative of the political party le Mouvement du Peuple pour le Progrès (MPP) stated today that the party understood the need to delay the electoral cycle and would patiently await the government’s position on the matter. The MPP counts as one of the newest political parties in Burkina Faso, but is comprised of some of the most best known and longest serving Burkinabè politicians. Following the resignation of 75 members of the former ruling party—the CDP—in January 2014, the leaders of the resignation movement created the MPP to oppose the modification of presidential term limits. Owing to wide-spread name recognition and their high-profile role in the fight against Compaoré’s attempt to change the constitution, the MPP is seen as one of the favorites in the up-coming elections.

Another party, which publically announced their support for a postponement of the elections is the Union pour le Renaissance/Parti Sankariste (UNIR/PS). Despite being one of the oldest political parties belonging to the opposition under the Compaoré regime, this political party stands to gain from a delay in the electoral process. The principal challenge to the UNIR/PS as elections approach is undoubtedly the need to build a country-wide political base. In the opinion of the party’s national director of mobilization, Athanase Boudo, the government should consider delaying elections even as late as early December to provide sufficient time to resolve their current challenges.

Meanwhile, from the point of Law Professor Luc Marius Ibriga—also a civil society leader opposed to the attempted modification of presidential term limits—the holding of elections does not impede the government’s authority. The Charter of the Transition (a sort of interim constitution which elaborates the transition’s institutional structures) insures that the transition’s mandate does not depend on a given date, but rather the swearing in of newly elected officials.

In a final piece of good news which also highlights the resumption of normal activities in Burkina Faso, the African Union lifted its suspension of the country yesterday.

While many questions remain regarding elections, the surrender of the RSP bodes well for the advancement of the political transition in general. In the coming weeks, the progress of the special investigation committee into the attempted coup and the actions of those already suspected of supporting the coup are likely to feature prominently in Burkinabè news. For now, both social and political forces appear willing to set aside questions about elections in order to pursue justice for the Burkinabè people.

The Evolving Political Crisis in Burkina Faso: Observations from Ouagadougou, continued

[This guest post is part of a series on Burkina Faso’s ongoing political turmoil. My colleague Daniel Eizenga, a Research Associate with the Sahel Research Group and Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Florida, has been based in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou since before the coup of September 17 conducting dissertation research. He has generously offered to share his updates from the ground as the situation evolves. Readers and journalists may contact Dan at: deizenga at ufl dot edu.  – Alex]

Date: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 6:16 PM UTC

Military operations were launched today, surrounding the RSP’s camp, Naaba Koom, located close to the Presidential Palace in the neighborhood of Ouaga 2000 where the presidential guard has been confined since last Wednesday—Ouaga 2000 is also the neighborhood in which the US Embassy is located. Throughout the day reports of military movements in the city surfaced offering little insight into the on-going events. This morning the Army Chief of Staff requested that everyone avoid Ouaga 2000 and that residents of the neighborhood remain indoors. The neighborhood is situated on the south side of the capital and close to the international airport. Due to the threat of military action, the airport closed, cancelling all flights until further notice.

This morning, the national gendarmerie executed the arrest of General Djibrill Bassolé at his private residence located close to the town of Koudougou. Last night the government issued an announcement claiming that Bassolé, former Minister of Foreign Affairs under Compaoré and one of the candidates excluded from presidential elections, conspired with Gen. Gilbert Diendéré to destabilize the country. The announcement cited both generals as key actors behind the RSP’s decision not to follow the disarmament process and accused Bassolé and Diendéré of reaching out to mercenaries and jihadists to destabilize the countryside. While, little to no evidence of the claims arose during the day, the government’s decision to arrest Bassolé suggests that there must be, at the very least, some evidence of his continued involvement with the RSP.

While the military prepared for conflict with the RSP, several political leaders took to local media sources and social media to advocate for dialogue and peace. Recognizing the rapidly escalating potential for violent conflict, political actors like Abdoul Karim Sango, a Professor of Law for the National School of Administration and member of the electoral commission, implored leaders of the transitional government to heed the words of the Mogho Naaba and find a political solution to this crisis before it collapsed into civil war.

Cherif Sy, President of the Assembly of the Transition, seconded Sango’s words stating that the problems faced by the Burkinbè people belonged in the realm of politics and, thus, required a political solution not a military one. This message is by far the dominant response of most political figures, and in some cases political parties like Le Faso Autrement, which called for dialogue to resume between the RSP and military. Nevertheless, public sentiment remains mixed regarding how to deal with the RSP. Comments available online, via the sites of local media sources and social media, clearly demonstrate that for each individual in support of dialogue there is another against it. The most common call against dialogue typically referenced a refusal to negotiate with terrorists and the popular call of former revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara: ‘la patrie ou la mort, nous vaincrons’ (in English: homeland or death, we shall overcome).

As the day progressed, reports of RSP soldiers leaving their military camp and their compatriots to rejoin the national military began to trickle through local media. Two junior officers were said to have led a small contingent of RSP soldiers seeking to surrender. Later, the well-known Lt. Colonel Boureima Kéré, who assumed a leadership position in the RSP after Compaoré’s demise, reportedly left to help resolve the crisis from outside the confines of military camp Naaba Koom. The national military later informed citizens that around 300 soldiers belonging to the RSP rejoined national military ranks at another military camp in Ouagadougou. It was not clear when their surrender took place or if the departure of the junior officers and Lt. Col. Kéré were including in the figure.

In the early afternoon, the government declared that the population in Ouagadougou should go about their regular business, so long as they adhere to the instructions of the Chief of Staff to avoid Ouaga 2000. Despite this announcement, violent confrontation between the military and the RSP could not be avoided. Late this afternoon, the US Embassy circulated an emergency message in which it declared that the national military attacked the RSP at the Naaba Koom base, using artillery and tanks to confront the former presidential guard.

The online media source Le Faso verified the military action, reporting that local residents of Ouaga 2000 could confirm that sporadic gunfire had been heard throughout the neighborhood since the beginning of the afternoon. Early this evening Gen. Diendéré took to the airways of popular radio station, ‘Radio Omega’—ironically one the stations partially destroyed by the RSP during the coup—to ask ‘all elements of the RSP to accept the disarmament, lower their weapons, and return to their barracks…to avoid a potential blood bath.’

At this point, it is not at all clear whether RSP soldiers are still under the control of Diendéré. It is also unclear whether fighting is still on-going or all RSP soldiers have surrendered to the national military. It is, of course entirely possible that some members of former presidential guard opted to leave Ouagadougou with their weapons. Following the largescale military mutinies of 2011 many of the mutinous soldiers (some part of the RSP) found their way to the countryside with their arms opting for banditry over facing the potential consequences of partaking in the mutinies. I expect that by tomorrow a resolution will be found, but the nature of the resolution and its costs to the population, the military, the RSP, and the transitional government, remain entirely unknown.

The coup may be finished and the transitional government reinstated, but one can only wonder when the people living in Ouagadougou might be able to go to sleep with more answers instead of more questions.

The Evolving Political Crisis in Burkina Faso: Observations from Ouagadougou, continued

[This guest post is part of a series on Burkina Faso’s ongoing political turmoil. My colleague Daniel Eizenga, a Research Associate with the Sahel Research Group and Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Florida, has been based in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou since before the coup of September 17 conducting dissertation research. He has generously offered to share his updates from the ground as the situation evolves. Readers and journalists may contact Dan at: deizenga at ufl dot edu.  – Alex]

Date: Monday, September 28, 2015 at 5:48 PM UTC

Over the course of the weekend, leaders of the political transition seemed to be sorting out the complicated process of returning the country back to normal. On Sunday, the leaders of the different labor unions agreed to suspend the general strike. No doubt, a decision taken during meetings with the Minister of Public Service, Augustin Loada, held Saturday, 26 September. Yet, only today did the lifting of the strike actually have an impact, since most businesses and services observing the strike do not open on Sunday. And even with the suspension of the strike, it will take several days for businesses to return to normal as local shops, especially, await for the distribution of goods to catch up after a weeklong back-log. Furthermore, president of the unions’ action committee, Bassolma Bazié, pointed out the strike was suspended, not called off, and the unions would be closely following the actions of the government and RSP to determine whether or not it need to be reinitiated.

More good news emerged Sunday afternoon when President Kafando met with the Mogho Naba—traditional leader of the Mossi, the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso. Kafando met with the traditional leader to recognize his contribution to finding a peaceful end to last week’s military coup. The Mogho Naba has featured prominently in recent events as a mediator between different parties involved in the foiled coup led by the presidential guard (RSP). He helped to insure that a peace agreement between the national military and the RSP was reached before military confrontations between the two groups erupted over the demands of the military, the transitional government, and the international community that the RSP disarm. In accordance with that agreement, the disarmament process started this weekend.

At the public meeting, the Mogho Naba asked the RSP and national military to remain outside of the political sphere and beseeched the President to act with the utmost tolerance, understanding, and humility when dealing with the coup-makers as his actions would affect the unity of the country. The high profile involvement of the Mogho Naba has not been without criticism, however. Serge Bambara, AKA Smockey and a leader of the Balai Citoyen, pointed out in an interview with Le Monde that, in the past, the Mogho Naba strongly supported former president Blaise Compaoré. Bambara goes on to argue that the traditional leader offered a neutral space for the military leaders to negotiate, but never personally called for the RSP to disarm.

Another question which continues to go unaddressed by the transitional government pertains to the rescheduling of elections. This has developed into a major issue for the US Embassy. At a town hall meeting held this past Friday, 25 September, the US Ambassador, Tulinabo Mushingui, highlighted the continued support of the American Government for the electoral process. He also stated that the electoral commission would soon be releasing the new timetable for elections which would certainly be delayed. Yet, the new electoral calendar continues to remain undisclosed. Today on its Facebook page, the US Embassy implored the transitional government to publish the date for presidential and legislative elections without further delay. However, for many Burkinabè, as referenced by their comments on social media, the more pressing issue is dealing with the RSP. And after today, it would seem their concerns are justified.

Just when things appeared to be looking up, the presidential guard decided disarmament may not actually safeguard their interests. In a communique released by the Chief of Staff of the national army, it was announced today that the disarmament process reached an impasse last night. The Chief of Staff underscored two reasons for the impasse: 1) refusal of RSP soldiers to proceed in accordance with the disarmament deal, resulting in confrontations with and attacks on the personnel charged with the task 2) the ambiguous behavior of Gen. Gilbert Diendéré (the coup leader and head of the RSP). Citing Diendéré’s behavior as ambiguous, and a lack of acceptance and discipline on behalf of his soldiers, leads me to wonder whether Diendéré may no longer be in full control of his men.

As news of the announcement traveled through Ouagadougou, the ambiance grew increasingly tense. I learned of the news from my elderly neighbor, when she informed me she would, consequently, be visiting family in Kaya (approximately 100 km from Ouagadougou) for an undisclosed amount of time. Another neighbor, also decided to leave, going to Koudougou (roughly 150 km from Ouagadougou). This afternoon the news that the RSP decided, at least temporarily, not to cooperate with the disarmament resulted in much discussion in the streets. Indeed, the RSP was the topic of discussion, and when I tried to suggest that things were going better, that the government was back in control, I was immediately shot down. Comments on the internet elicit similar reactions, in some cases advocating for military action against the RSP.

Civil society quickly reacted to the communique of the Chief of Staff. Guy Hervé KAM, spokesperson for Balai Citoyen, and Safiatou LOPEZ/ZONGO released a call for popular mobilization on behalf of the national group of civil society organizations (a somewhat amorphous conglomeration of different organizations). In the publication the organizations claim that there is no longer any other choice, but for the Burkinabè people to resume their active resistance in face of the RSPs actions, to once and for all put an end to the coup. The civil society organizations appeal to three different sets of actors: 1) the soldiers of the RSP to realign with the Burkinabè people and accept the failure of the coup 2) the regular army to take all the necessary measures to defend the population and their goods 3) all activists to remain mobilized to resume a variety of activities throughout the country.

Just now, while writing this post, the US Embassy raised their security precautions asking citizens to shelter in place and citing military movements in Ouagadougou without clearly defined intentions. As far as I can tell, the situation remains in flux, but for the time being calm. Still, in light of these new developments and rumors, I find myself hoping that yesterday’s words form the Mogho Naba will be taken to heart.