An army spokesman in Burkina Faso confirmed that the country’s presidential guard as well as members of the regular army have mutinied. Residents of the capital, Ouagadougou, report having heard gunfire and heavy artillery throughout the night. Are the winds of change sweeping through the Middle East reaching Burkina Faso?

Burkina Faso has been ruled by Blaise Compaore since 1987, when he took power in a coup from his predecessor Thomas Sankara. While Compaore has weathered several social and political storms before – this is not the first time there is unrest and discontent in the country – maybe this could be different. Neighboring Cote d’Ivoire, landlocked Burkina Faso has experienced disruptions in its trading routes to the south. Similarly to other countries in the region, prices for basic commodities and fuel have been rising because of the Ivoirian conflict. These factors are certainly aggravating whatever grievances already existed.

This is an interesting situation to watch. Compaore has been a key regional political player, acting as mediator in the recent crisis in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and influencing the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone by supporting Charles Taylor. It’s unclear at this stage whether this mutiny is a turning point for the Compaore regime, but it does follow weeks of unusual protests from the general population and comes after Compaore had agreed to negotiate with his disgruntled military.

AFP reports that Compaore has fled the capital for his hometown,  30 kilometers away from Ouagadougou.

Photo credit: DamienHR’s Flickr stream

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