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Burkina Faso’s new president: Consensus figure in time of transition

world Updated: Dec 01, 2015 12:49 IST
Burkina Faso

Roch Marc Christian Kabore waves to supporters at party headquarters in Ouagadougou on December 1, 2015 after winning Burkina Faso's presidential election.(AFP Photo)

Roch Marc Christian Kabore, an affable and strongly built banker, late on Monday was named the president of Burkina Faso, the first new leader of the west African country in almost three decades.

Seen as a consensus figure by some and an opportunist by others, he once governed under ousted strongman Blaise Compaore but turned his back on the old regime before it cracked under the pressure of a massive popular revolt.

Supporters say Kabore -- best known by his first name Roch -- is the right man for the job because of his wealth of political experience, and praise his organisational abilities and intelligence.

He was appointed minister several times and prime minister in 1994, making him one of the main figures in Compaore’s regime, but ultimately became one of the leading figures of the opposition that helped oust him from power.

His win showed he could bring together supporters of the old leader as well as backers of the October 2014 uprising that saw Burkina’s former leader toppled from power.

Kabore’s detractors, however, say he was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” and sources close to the 58-year-old minister’s son have described him as a man who enjoys the good life.

A devout Roman Catholic in a majority Muslim country, Kabore served as premier from 1994 to 1996, steering Burkina through hardship caused by the devaluation of the CFA franc currency.

For over a decade he led the ruling Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party and was seen as Compaore’s likely heir, even counting himself among the group that in 2010 began amending the constitution to keep the strongman in power.

But Kabore abruptly fell out of favour in 2012 and was thrown out of the leadership to become a mere “political advisor” -- a move that eventually proved to be a blessing in disguise.

Early last year, the new president broke with the CDP to form the opposition Movement of the People of Progress (MPP), catapulting him to power in the vote that was widely seen as sealing the transition to democracy.

He has pledged the end of “all the lazy, all the fraudulent (and) the fruits of growth will be shared among all Burkinabes, not a single handful of people who grow fat on the backs of the population”.

As a student in France’s Dijon, Kabore was a committed leftist, and when Burkina’s revered Marxist leader Thomas Sankara took power, he became the director of the International Bank of Burkina before he had even turned 30.

Kabore has pledged to fight youth unemployment, improve education and modernise the health system with a promise to make healthcare for children under six free.“Social democracy is the path to development,” he says.

When Sankara was gunned down in 1987, Compaore took the reins.

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