Burkina Faso is facing a political vacuum in the face of an escalating security crisis that has killed thousands and led to street protests.
Prime Minister Christophe Joseph Marie Dabire on Wednesday tendered his resignation to President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, a move that triggered the resignation of the entire government, as stipulated by law.
It came amid a deepening conflict that has spread across the western part of the Sahel region in recent years, leaving an acute humanitarian crisis in its wake.
What has happened?
The presidential office said Kabore had received a resignation letter from Dabire dated December 8.
In view of the letter, the president decreed the prime minister’s duties “terminated”, a government official said on public television.
The announcement followed an ultimatum set by the opposition, which has pledged to continue street protests should there be no change in leadership.
Opposition groups had called for Kabore’s resignation over the security crisis. Critics say the dismissal of Dabire is an attempt at deflecting responsibility.
Last month, on the eve of anti-government demonstrations, Kabore had stressed the need for a “stronger” cabinet over the growing threat of violence.
Who is Christophe Dabire?
Dabire was previously Burkina Faso’s representative at the eight-nation West African Economic and Monetary Union.
In the 1990s, he had served as minister to ex-President Blaise Compaore, partly while Kabore himself was prime minister.
Dabire was appointed prime minister as part of a reshuffle in early 2019 coinciding with a rising wave of attacks in the country. He remained in the post after Kabore was re-elected for his second term in January 2021.
Kabore has been under pressure to make changes and has already reshuffled his army leadership.
In July 2021, following deadly attacks, he had dismissed the ministers of defence and security. Dabire’s departure appears to be an extension of the same purge.
What is the security situation?
Many countries of the Sahel have been struggling with extreme climate shifts that result in recurring droughts with devastating effects on the already vulnerable populations living in the underdeveloped region.
In recent years, parts of western Sahel have also been in the international spotlight due to a “fireball of conflict” that involves multiple armed groups, military campaigns by national armies and international partners as well as local militias.
In Burkina Faso, an impoverished country of some 20 million people, attacks carried out by armed groups linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda have displaced more than one million people.
Anger at the security situation has spilled over since November, when al-Qaeda-affiliated gunmen killed 49 military police officers and four civilians, in the worst attack on the military in recent memory.
The public was enraged by news that the troops had gone two weeks without food rations.
What will happen next?
The outgoing government is required to remain in a caretaker capacity until a new one is formed.
A new – and smaller – cabinet is expected to be announced before Sunday, when Burkina Faso celebrates its independence.
Following his resignation, Dabire urged citizens to “support the president … and the new executive that will be put in place” in a post on his Facebook page.
“I remain convinced that it is through unity of action that we will be able to meet the challenges our country and our people are facing,” he said.