After 27 years in power, Blaise Compaoré was planning to die in his presidential chair. But recent events have changed everything in Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries.
Since the ‘Arab Spring’, youth in the western African country have questioned the ruling elite and tested the regime by protesting against it.
Faced with the possibility of a parliamentary vote for reform of the country’s constitution – which would have allowed Compaoré to seek re-election three more times – deep anger enveloped the masses and a popular uprising broke out.
Compaoré exhausted all efforts to hold on to power. He declared a state of emergency after protesters stormed parliament and burnt other state buildings. Protesters were shot dead or injured by state forces but the demonstrations continued.
On 30 October, Compaoré was forced to say he would discuss setting up a ‘transitional government’ with the opposition, at the end of which he would hand over power. But the dye was cast and Compaoré was forced to resign the next day. In a statement, Compaoré said the presidency was “vacant” and called for elections within 90 days.
The head of the military, General Honore Traore, said he had taken over as head of state “in line with constitutional measures”. The news of Compaoré’s resignation saw crowds celebrating in the capital, Ouagadougou.
The long years of the dictatorship of Compaoré – a close ally of US and French imperialism – are over but the question remains – what alternative will follow his departure?
For the triumph of a revolution, protests are not enough. In the early stages of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, mass protests and general strikes or the threats of general strikes forced the departure of dictators, but were not enough to bring about fundamental change for the masses.
The departure of Compaoré is very welcome but only a beginning. Without the construction of a genuine mass alternative, a ‘transitional regime’, under the control of the army, is likely to be posed.
This may be followed by elections in which most attention will be focused on opposition figure, Zephyrinus Diabré, yet another pawn of Western imperialism.
All the ills that afflict society – unemployment, lack of housing, high prices and underdevelopment – will continue under any pro-capitalist successor. Many demonstrators correctly regard General Traore – formerly Compaore’s aide de camp – as no real change.
To ensure the success and democracy of the struggle, it is urgent to build popular committees in the neighbourhoods to begin the revolutionary reorganisation of society, not only politically but also economically. These committees should be aimed at defending the mass movement against attacks by troops on the payroll of the ex-dictator or the new rulers.
The rank-and-file soldiers of the army must be split away from the ruling system. Soldiers can be won to the movement by creating democratic committees of soldiers which elect their own officers.
Any anti-democratic ‘military transition’ needs to be opposed. The call should go out for the convening of a revolutionary constituent assembly composed of delegates from all parts of the country, elected by popular assemblies, so that the people can decide for themselves about their future. For the establishment of a ‘republic of the poor’, a government of workers, youth and the masses!
This would see the nationalisation of the key sectors of the economy, under the democratic control of elected representatives of workers, young people and the poor, subject to recall, at any time and receiving no material privileges. A workers’ government would oversee a planned economy, democratically run according to the needs of the majority.
Finally, the movement should not be limited to Burkina Faso. The departure of Compaoré, the ‘gendarme of West Africa’, will open the door to protest movements throughout Africa.
The grassroots movement ‘Balai citoyen’ (Citizen’s Broom), which has reportedly played a heroic role in this struggle so far, must not make any concessions to the generals nor to the various pro-capitalist parties who are manoeuvring to take power.
The mass uprising shows the potential for a new party for workers, the poor and young people.
Building a strong, independent alternative for the masses will be essential for their struggle not to be hijacked by the forces of ‘democratic’ capitalist reaction and to ensure, on the contrary, the continuation and deepening of the revolutionary struggle to fully satisfy the masses’ demands.