(Originally published in World Politics Review on January 21, 2014)
Despite its status as a poor, landlocked country in the midst of West Africa, Burkina Faso plays an important role in the region and for its international partners. During his 26 years in power, President Blaise Compaore has cast himself as an indispensible mediator, having brokered negotiations to end crises in Togo in 2006, Cote d’Ivoire in 2007 and 2011, and Mali in 2012, among others. With the diplomatic skill and networks necessary to negotiate the release of Westerners held by terrorist groups in the Sahel, Burkina Faso under Compaore has also become a “hostage whisperer.” In addition, Compaore has capitalized on the country’s geostrategic location to provide access to both the United States’ Joint Special Operations Air Detachment, which conducts surveillance missions across the Sahel, and a detachment of French special operations forces.
By the time of Burkina Faso’s next presidential election in November 2015, Compaore will have served two seven-year terms and two five-year terms, but will only be 64 years old—meaning that he could live long enough to rule another 15-20 years. However, the increasing momentum of opposition to the Compaore regime points to a pressing need for the Burkinabe leader to find an exit strategy.
(Read the rest of the article on the World Politics Review website)