Coups, governance and statistics in Burkino Faso

Map of West Africa Photo courtesy of James Wiseman

Political situations are critiqued or assessed through various means. To convince readers or listeners they must be credible and scientific. Such an exercise is carried out in most cases through research including interviews of different types, observations, formal and informal discussions, and so on. In Burkina Faso, an institution has been playing a special role in the evaluation of the political situation, by relying on data generated through social surveys, specifically. Respondents are selected in such a way to ensure that the whole nation is captured or represented, and their opinions are rendered through figures, and then interpreted and conveyed to the public. That institution is Institut de Recherche et de Sondage Apidon (IRSOA), the Apidon Institute for Research and Survey.

The research is based on the following principles: independence or freedom of expression and opinion, and coherence, integrity or rigour vis à vis the data (that should not be manipulated in any way). This is plainly stated at the outset of every survey they conduct. So, in that spirit, they carried out some research on the regime led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba who seized power in January 2022 and stayed in power for nine months before being overthrown on 30 September 2022. The IRSOA gathered some statistical data that could have salvaged the reign of the deposed president, if he and his collaborators had bothered to look at the findings of those surveys and had tried to adhere to the expectations of the population. The factors that are taken into consideration include: people’s reaction to or perception of a change of power like a coup, and their anxieties, expectations and priorities. The Institute aggregated the reaction and expectation of the Burkinabè population when the January 2022 coup occurred. The results of the February 2022 survey revealed that the Burkinabè were afraid of expressing their political affiliation because the political terrain was muddy, with many political parties competing for the trust of the people. Many of them were not anchored in any clear political ideology that demonstrated the concern of the average Burkinabè at its core. People had warmly welcomed the coup; they were enthusiastic because the previous government of Roch Marc Kaboré had created a general feeling of frustration. They indicated a readiness to accept a two-year transition period, but there was apprehension stemming from the probable lack of collaboration among the members of the new Damiba Government and also the fear of failure in the combat against Jihadist attacks. The priority of the Burkinabè was the “return” and prevalence of security in the country, and a strong commitment in the handling of the conditions and situation of the internally displaced people. These were the five main concerns that the survey identified and if the then new government had heeded them, chances are that they would not have been forced to exit as they were some few days ago. Flouting the findings of the IRSOA survey is exactly what caused the overthrow of the MPSR or MPSR1 by the coup led by Captain Ibrahim Traoré. The statements of this Institute are plain and reliable since they can make or break the rule of a political party or a junta.

Now it is interesting and important to look at what the IRSOA’s survey found regarding the 34-year-old leader of Burkina and his collaborators, since that will shed light on who the man is, the reaction to the coup, what is expected from him or the type of governance that the Burkinabè masses are longing for. In other words, this is somehow what can or might guarantee the success of the new regime or bring about its failure and the repercussions of such a phenomenon. First, it is important to bear in mind that the enthusiasm that follows the arrival of a new team on the political scene should not be taken for granted.  A government or statesman must work to preserve the joy that the population feels and expresses for and to them. Many of the findings of the recent survey conducted on the new rulers of Burkina are similar to those that were expected from the previous regime: the repossession of the territories lost to the Jihadists and the security of the country. These are two factors that analysts call, respectively “the conjunctural” and “the structural”.

The data reveal that the Burkinabè have been stagnating in a malaise for a long time and the time has come for the leaders to move fast and strategically to eradicate defeat, terror and failure and to establish stability and to discuss equally important but less burning issues. Second, 63 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the September coup. Third, 68 per cent state that Captain Traoré is the right person to lead the country. The population has three expectations of in the new leader – vision, firmness and youth. The new leader exhibits at least two of these features. The fourth point is that Burkinabè identify three possible leaders and Captain Traoré is their favorite; the other two are Lassina Zerbo, a politician and scientist who was prime minister between 2021 and 2022 and Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Zoungrana, an army officer who is loved by the troops for his courage and concern for his men and women. The IRSOA data show that three priorities of the Burkinabè, currently are, respectively: the fight against terrorism; the necessity to reduce the high cost of living; and the institution of political stability. Eighty-six per cent of respondents want a president who listens to the voices of the citizens. The biggest fear or worry is the prevalence or resurgence of ethnic differences and their corollaries. Seventy-five per cent are of the view that a prime minister is not needed during the transition period, and 64 per cent contend that a National Assembly (Parliament) is not necessary during the transition period.

This is what the surveys and figures convey, regarding the aspirations of the Burkinabè people. A president will be chosen for the transition period and regular elections are to be held in 2024. The new leaders will have to fulfill the wishes of the masses (those are justified and fundamental demands), something that the previous regime failed to do, although they swore and vowed to achieve those popular concerns and demands. The new president has his work cut out for him if he wants to go down in history as a statesman. Institutes like IRSOA and their surveys are obviously revolutionizing governance by making roadmaps for leaders. The current impression is that the new Burkinabè leader is young, courageous and charismatic like former president Thomas Sankara. The following days and months will tell us more.

Moussa Traoré is Associate Professor at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

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  1. I like the voice of optimism in this opinion piece. Burkinabés deserve better security and a stable country. Fingers crossed. We hope to see Captain Traore do something closer to what Sankara did.

  2. Love the tone of the writing, the negligence of the previous government in tackling the issues raised by the research team is a clear evidence of how majority of Africans neglect the analytical research even when it firmly backed by data

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