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Opinion: Is Burkina Faso's new leader too close to the old regime?

New Burkinabe President Kabore faces many challenges, including probing crimes committed under longtime leader Blaise Compaore. It won't be easy. Kabore himself was a member of the old regime, writes Dirke Köpp.

One cannot but have mixed feelings about the outcome of the elections in Burkina Faso. On the one hand, watching people queue patiently so they could cast their ballots in a vote in which the result was not a foregone conclusion for the first time in 55 years was a welcome sight. Blaise Compaore governed the country for 27 of those 55 years before he was ousted in October 2014. He wanted to prolong his stay in power by amending the constitution.

On the other hand, Roch Marc Christian Kabore's win raises a number of questions. It is indeed puzzling that a politician who for years was a member of Compaore's regime should score such an impressive victory. Was the outcome of this election really not decided in advance? How far and how deep does Compaore's influence in Burkinabe political life still reach? Kabore never tires of saying that he has cut all ties to the old regime, but is that really true? Are not his old contacts still in place? And what role does "Francafrique" play in all this? This is a term which describes how France played puppet master in its African ex-colonies decades after independence, offering protection for leaders in exchange for lucrative deals. Compaore was a loyal guardian of French interests in Burkina Faso up until the last moment. The answers to these questions won't be forthcoming for months if not years.

Dirke Köpp

Dirke Köpp is the head of DW's French for Africa service

For a long time Kabore was seen as a Compaore ally. He was his prime minister and at a later date, parliamentary president for 10 years. He was also president of Compaore's ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP). Compaore and Kabore fell out over the former's insistence on running for a further term. There are diverse explanations for Kabore's anger. Some say he had moral objections, others maintain Kabore was frustrated because there was a deal between the two under which he would succeed Compaore. In other words, Compaore had duped him.

It will be difficult to uncover the truth of the matter. Kabore says he wants to look to the future. A wise move because a lot of work awaits him. Two thirds of the population of Burkina Faso is under the age of 18, and the country has a serious youth unemployment problem, one which he needs to resolve fast. For years the country has been bumping around at the bottom of the UN's development index league table. That is also a huge challenge. But reconciliation and serving the ends of justice - in connection with the Compaore era and the 2014 and 2015 coups - should also rank high on his list of priorities. There is, however, the risk that Kabore - in his capacity as former prime minister, parliamentary president and ruling party leader - could himself become an obstacle to progress, preventing investigations from being pursued with the necessary vigor.

"It's a long road ahead," say the activists from the citizens' movement Balai Citoyen. They have already pledged to monitor the new president's performance to see if he lives up to expectations. If he doesn't, the activists proclaim, then he will be booted out of office like Blaise Compaore before him.

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