Image: Blaise Compaore

Blaise Compaore

Blaise Compaore, born in 1950, president of Burkina Faso (1987-). Compaore was born in Ziniare. He joined the army, completed officers` training school in Cameroon, and received a commission as second lieutenant in 1975. Compaore met Thomas Sankara in 1978 in a paratroop commando class in Morocco. When Sankara seized power in 1983 he named Compaore minister of state to the presidency.

While both were committed Marxist-Leninists

While both were committed Marxist-Leninists, Compaore and Sankara soon developed political and personal differences. Compaore, fearing that he might be dismissed, led a violent coup in which Sankara and 13 government officers were executed in October 1987. Declaring himself president, Compaore disarmed local militias and instituted a program of rectification, ostensibly designed to resuscitate the nation`s socialist revolution but in actuality requiring conservative economic policies, including privatization of industry and austerity measures sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He formed the Organization for Popular Democracy-Labor Movement (French acronym, ODP-MT) as the new ruling party in April 1989 and pronounced a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

In response to public unrest

In response to public unrest, Compaore resigned his military commission in June 1991 and announced that he would run in multiparty elections as the civilian candidate of the ODP-MT, which would no longer endorse Marxist economic policies but rather free enterprise. Failed negotiations between the government and opposition groups about the democratic transition process erupted into violent clashes in October, prompting the opposition to withdraw candidates and call for an election boycott. Compaore, running unopposed, won the election with only 25 percent of the electorate participating. In November 1998 Compaore was reelected by a landslide, defeating two opposition candidates. Compaore was easily reelected in the November 2005 presidential election.

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