Burkina Faso protesters remove Blaise Compaore from power, 2014

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Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
Protests began the 21st, escalated on the 28th, and finished on the 31st.
October 21st
October 31st
Location and Goals
Burkina Faso
To stop the amendment allowing Blaise Compaore more terms and remove him from power.

In October 2013, Blaise Compaoré had ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years. However, the Constitution would have prevented him from running for President again in the 2015 elections. Compaoré had manipulated term limits in the past before, and he survived soldiers’ mutinies and popular protests calling for his resignation in 2011. In October 2014, he planned to change the Constitution to allow him to run for office again. His party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress, controlled two-thirds of the legislature and were set to vote to approve the Constitutional change on 30 October.

Resident of the capital Ouagadougou began protests on 21 October. They consisted of demonstrations in central areas of the city and called for Compaoré to step down. The political opposition primarily organized the protests and called for a civil disobedience campaign until the amendment was withdrawn. The government shut down schools and many public areas in preparation for the protests. One large organizing party was the Movement of People for Progress (MPP), which was formed by former Compaoré supporters who defected in January. The main founders of the party were Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, the National Assembly’s former president; Simon Campaoré, the mayor of Ouagadougou; and Salif Diallo, a former cabinet minister. Labor unions were also key organizers of the protests. A group called Le Balai Citoyen quickly joined the protests. Its name translates to “The Citizen’s Broom” and refers to the process of sweeping out political corruption. The group was founded in 2013 by two musicians, Sams’K Le Jah and Serge Bambara, and took inspiration from former Burkinabé President Thomas Sankara. The group held a great deal of popularity with youth and quickly latched onto efforts to prevent the change in term limits, and they also called for Compaoré to leave office immediately.

28 October saw demonstrations from over a hundred thousand people against the extension of term limits. Protesters massed in central areas of the city and made clear that they would not accept Compaoré staying as president. Many also called for him to leave immediately. The next day hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied. A popular chant compared Compaoré to the ebola virus which was devastating other West African countries at the time. Police fired tear gas at protesters on the 29th, and on both days some protesters fought with the police.

30 October was the day of the proposed vote. Security forces blocked off roads to parliament, but still tens of thousands of protesters came. Police fired tear gas and fired bullets into the crowd, but 1,500 protesters still rushed through a security cordon into the parliament building. Protesters took over parliament, the ruling party headquarters, and the state television station, setting fire to parts of all the buildings. Protesters began to act more independently, not just following the directives of the nonviolent organizers. Protesters looted buildings associated with Compaoré.

The vote to extend Compaoré’s rule was cancelled. He announced a state of emergency and said General Honoré Traoré would organize the transition period which would last a maximum of a year. Compaoré claimed that he was still President and he would be until the end of the transition period.

On 31 October confusion reigned as Compaoré’s status remained uncertain and multiple military leaders vied for power. While Honoré Traoré was officially in charge of the transition power, retired General Kouamé Lougué and Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida also seemed to position themselves to take control of the country. Protesters continued to protest in central Ouagadougou, calling for Compaoré to step down. Protests had also begun to spread to other cities. They made clear that they would no longer accept Compaoré as President. However, they were unsure of the developing situation and if a military leader would try to take power in Compaoré’s place. The night of the 31 it was announced that Compaoré would leave office, and he fled the country.

The next day Zida announced that he, not Honoré Traoré, would take charge of the country. He said the takeover was not a coup, and he intended to respect the wishes of the public. Simon Campaoré, one of the leaders of the protests and the mayor of Ouagadougou, and Le Balai Citoyen called for a cleanup of the city. Protests largely stopped. By mid-November Zida had agreed to a framework for handing power back to civilians within the next year.

Research Notes

The 2011 Burkinabe protests and the 2011 Senegal protests both influenced the 2014 Burkinabe protests against Compaore (1)

2015. “Burkina Faso: Military Shooting of Protesters Must Be Investigated.” Amnesty International. Retrieved March 2, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20150302052604/https://www.amnesty.org/en/articles/news/2015/01/burkina-faso-military-shooting-protesters-must-be-investigated/).

Arriotti, Molly. 2014. “The Fall of the Hegemon in Burkina Faso.” The Monkey Cage. Retrieved March 2, 2015 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/11/04/the-fall-of-the-hegemon-in-burkina-faso/).

Dwyer, Maggie. 2014. “Burkina Faso: Where Democracy Has Always Run on Protests and Coups.” Open Democracy. Retrieved March 2, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20150302052926/https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/maggie-dwyer/burkina-faso-where-democracy-has-always-run-on-protests-and-coups).

Fessy, Thomas. 2014. “How Burkina Faso's Blaise Compaore Sparked His Own Downfall.” BBC News. Retrieved March 2, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20150302053814/http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29858965).

Frantz, Erica and Andrea Kendall-Taylor. 2014. “Burkina Faso and the Growing Vulnerability of Autocrats to Revolt.” Washington Post. Retrieved March 2, 2015 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/11/11/burkina-faso-and-the-growing-vulnerability-of-autocrats-to-revolt/).

Opalo, Ken. 2014. “As Thousands Protest Against Term Limit Extension in Burkina Faso, Will Other African Presidents Take Note?.” The Monkey Cage. Retrieved March 2, 2015 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/10/28/as-thousands-protest-against-term-limit-extension-in-burkina-faso-will-other-african-presidents-take-note/).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Timothy Hirschel-Burns 03/02/2015