Despite intense efforts by President Blaise Compaore to resolve the political crisis in Burkina Faso, diverse social groups continue to hold protests, especially security forces, merchants, and students. The social and geographical extent of the unrest continues to represent a serious threat to the regime.
Yesterday, a number of events happened in different places in the country. Police in the capital, Ouagadougou, mutinied. The police officers’ mutiny follows several uprisings by disgruntled soldiers. Despite Compoare’s move to take direct control over the security forces, it is clear that many rank-and-file soldiers and policemen are fed up with their working conditions.
Koudougou, a city in the west, also saw protests yesterday:
Merchants set fire to the mayor’s home, the police headquarters and several other buildings. They were protesting an official’s decision to shut about 40 stores in Koudougou’s central market over unpaid rent.
These actions by merchants follow earlier demonstrations by businessmen over the looting done by disaffected soldiers. Not all of Burkina Faso’s protesters are working together, but the problems of different social groups are increasingly interconnected. And just as protests by security forces threaten Compaore’s control over the military aspect of power, protests by merchants undermine the regime’s credibility in the economic sphere. The trigger for the protests – the closure of shops by a government official – also highlights the tensions between merchants and the government.
The merchants protesting in Koudougou found kindred spirits in Bobo-Dioulasso, a city even further west where cotton growers marched yesterday to protest low cotton prices. Cotton growers have even “threatened to boycott the crop season,” a move that could exacerbate tensions in the country, and that could spread the protest movements beyond their urban bases and more into rural areas.
Students, who have played a role in the protest movement since its beginnings in February, apparently joined in some of yesterday’s protests.
Protests are coming now in waves, a trend that has so far given Compaore time to improvise. Probably wisely, he has not resorted to brutal repression of demonstrators. His adjustments have so far prevented his fall, but have not halted the protests. Indeed, dissatisfaction is spreading. Whether Compaore can stay in power seems to be an open question.
Here is a map of Burkina Faso, with (left to right) Bob0-Dioulasso, Koudougou, and Ouagadougou marked: