The foundations of stability that Compaoré guaranteed seemed doubtful to the critical observers, since it was not a question of institutional stability, that is, based on the intra- and inter-organizational stability of democratic institutions. They had recognized that the state of Burkina Faso was not based on a division and balance of the three powers, not on an undivided republican state structure and not on an independent judiciary. The country’s stability stood and fell with one person and his domination of the institutional sectors, his complicity with the economy and his anchoring in the military. This personal stability had become the strongest argument for re-electing Blaise Compaoré as president. Since he had not organized a succession, in the eyes of many, his departure would have been tantamount to a collapse or a free fall into chaos in which the collapse of the state threatened. This case should be postponed by the constant re-election of Blaise Compaoré. Others, who look further ahead, found it suicidal not to prepare for a change of power (“L’Alternance” or “Tansision apaisée”) at the top and within the outdated power apparatus in good time. Without a well-prepared change of power, the country would be headed towards ungovernability. The events of 2011 (see above) already revealed that the system was threatened with instability due to sudden popular uprisings or arbitrary military action.
Since the death of Thomas Sankara, the society of Burkina Faso has not produced a new charismatic leader who embodies a new orientation and promised to put the community on new foundations.
After 27 years of rule under Blaise Compaoré, an accumulation of power had arisen, as the constitution tried to prevent from the start by restricting the presidential term of office to two mandates (Article 37). With the help of a 3/4 majority of the presidential-dominated party (CDP) and thanks to the judgments of the constitutional judges appointed by him, Blaise Compaoré found himself in his fourth mandate in 2014 – against the wording and spirit of the constitution. Blaise Compaoré never even hinted that he would have been ready to hand over his presidency to a successor in 2015. Statements suggested that he wanted to apply for a fifth mandate in 2015. In September 2013 he made it clear that his renewed candidacy would not depend on the current version of the constitution, but “on his own strengths and his decision”. At the end of 2013, he spoke openly about the possibility of a new constitutional amendment (video) to Article 37 (limitation of the presidency to two mandates) and brought the possibility of a referendum into play. For Blaise Compaoré to run again, an amendment or suspension of the constitution would have been necessary, for which the necessary majority in parliament appeared to be questionable. After the failure of one directed by Blaise Compaoré, during the political dialogue between government representatives and the opposition, on October 21, 2014, he forced an extraordinary Council of Ministers to propose a law that would make a referendum on the constitutional amendment possible.
However, the rejection of Blaise Compaoré’s renewed candidacy united an ever-widening front of various parties and movements and spontaneously drove millions of Burkinabe onto the streets. At the end of October 2014, the Burkinabe people fought en masse and resolutely to overcome the system that had dominated for 27 years, the “Compaoré system”.
Social policy and poverty reduction under Compaoré
According to estatelearning, the government of President Compaoré, which was ousted on October 31, 2014, was criticized for failing to fight poverty decisively enough. Although a newly wealthy upper class was able to grow up, after a quarter of a century under Compaoré there were no significant improvements in health, nutrition, education or any indicators of poverty. Burkina Faso is still among the 7 poorest countries in the world.
While in Sankara’s time social equilibrium, self-production, the environment, social housing, health and nutrition, women’s rights and, above all, education as an object of fundamental restructuring were in the interests of domestic political efforts, all social issues within Compaoré’s politics had lost importance and dynamism. Compaoré’s social policy was characterized by big talk and little action. His strategy was to institutionalize social problems instead of actively combating them or solving them in concrete terms. Arranging palaver has always proven to be his best antidote in social conflict. This happened, for example, through events (Journée Nationale du Paysan, de la Jeunesse, de Pardon …) or the creation of committees (College of Wise Men, CCRP…), which worked out little concrete, but instead oracles in abstract terms and put a lot of monologues in the place of dialogue. Social issues were assigned to government committees and external donors under the slogan “Fight against poverty” and thus pushed away from their own responsibility.
Corruption and clientelism were able to develop their own dynamic in all institutions under Compaoré. The understanding of domestic politics had degenerated into a “sharing of the big cake” for the personal enrichment of those involved. Fighting poverty became business.
Prestigious buildings and the noble district of Ouaga 2000 were thanks to the politics of Compaoré. The apparently lavish style of governance showed indifference to the social needs of the country. The people of Burkina Faso had to settle for a president who was removed from the real problems of the Burkins.
While basic health care continued to be without the most necessary medication and equipment, more and more state-of-the-art clinics were emerging in the capital, whose treatments were affordable for barely 2% of all Burkinabe. To date, maternal mortality is more than three times higher than the Millennium Development Goals and was fought against in a practical but verbal way.
In particular, even after 27 years under Compaoré, the rate of illiteracy could not really be reduced. The level of teaching, the equipment of the schools and the discipline of the teachers have deteriorated dramatically under Compaoré. The construction of new schools – mostly from external funds – was only able to keep pace with the population growth. The poor efforts of the rulers in this sector could be explained by the fact that they profited from the ignorance of the people in elections. That theft of school supplies and supplies for school canteens by officials or misappropriation of over F 10 billion CFA for school construction (Affaire MEBA) not only remained possible but largely unpunished, showed the real interests of the civil servants.
Modest progress has been made in the supply of water and energy, but by no means covers the basic needs of the general population.
Fighting the social hardship of more than half of the population was – in contrast to improving economic indices – not in the interests of domestic politics, but it was used for publicity purposes. The president – and especially his wife – increasingly placed themselves at the forefront of social projects to improve their image. For example, during vaccination campaigns by UNICEF or the WHO, Chantal Compaoré’s first children were personally vaccinated. Demands for real commitment and active interest in the existential needs of the population, for redistribution of goods and punishment for embezzlement should be defused by show effects.