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‘Democracy has disappeared’ say officials in mass resignation

 President Blaise Compaore

President Blaise Compaore

(GIN) — Some 75 officials in the West African nation of Burkina Faso resigned this week in mass to protest efforts by President Blaise Compaore to give himself an additional five-year term.

According to critics, Compaore is planning to extend his time in office by changing the rule that limits presidents to two five-year terms. Compaore has been in power since 1987 and under the current rule would not be able to run again once his term expires in 2015.

A former parliamentary speaker and an ex-capital city mayor are among 75 officials who announced their departure from the ruling party. In an open letter, the officials said democracy had “disappeared” from President Blaise Compaore’s Congress for Democracy and Progress party.

Compaore came to power in a French-backed coup d’etat in 1987, ousting his former friend and popular leader Thomas Sankara.

Sankara’s revolutionary programs for African self-reliance had made him an icon to many of Africa’s poor but his policies alienated and antagonized the small but powerful Burkinabé middle class, the tribal leaders whom he stripped of the long-held traditional right to forced labor and tribute payments, and France and its ally the Ivory Coast.

A week before his murder, Sankara declared: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”

Today, a tiny upper class has been the only real beneficiary of Compaore’s rule, finding significant profits from gold mining, cotton production and development assistance.

According to the International Crisis Group in a recent report, “There is real risk of socio-political crisis in Burkina Faso. Since coming to power in 1987, Compaore has put in place a semi-authoritarian regime, combining democratization with repression, to ensure political stability — something his predecessors have never achieved. This complex, flawed system revolves around one man who has dominated political life for over two decades and has left little room for a smooth transition. In fact, there are few alternatives for democratic succession.

“Despite strong economic growth, inequalities are widespread and the country is one of the poorest in the world. Repeated promises of change have never been fulfilled, and this has led to broken relations between the state and its citizens as well as a loss of authority at all levels of the administration,” noted the ICG report.

If Compaore succeeds in extending his term, he would join the list of African Presidents for Life, including Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (25 years), Paul Biya of Cameroon (29 years), Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (31 years), Jose Eduardo Santos of Angola (32 years), and Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea (32 years).

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