Democracy and rights
The democratic elections held in 2015 have
given hope for a more democratic development in the
country. At the same time, the increased threat from
jihadist movements poses a risk that the social climate
will increase again and threaten the strong tolerance
that exists between different religious groups. At the
same time, there is a strong civil society and
comparatively outspoken media. According to the
constitution, the judiciary should be independent, but
the judges are ultimately responsible to the president.
Former President Blaise Compaoré was forced to leave
power in 2014 after popular protests that he tried to
push through a constitutional amendment so that he could
once again run for re-election (see Modern History). In
the election held the following year, former Prime
Minister Roch Marc Christian Kaboré won by a clear
majority. At the same time, his party The People's
Progress Movement (MPP) 55 became the largest party in
the National Assembly. The elections were conducted in
relatively orderly forms.
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Subsequently, the electoral law has been rewritten in
a way that has received criticism from the opposition as
it makes it more difficult for Burkinians living abroad
to vote. Long-term plans are in place to adopt a new
constitution (see Political system).
Citizens are free to form political parties. 79
parties took part in the 2015 elections, of which 14 won
representation in the National Assembly. However, some
representatives of the former ruling party Democratic
and Progress Congress (CDP) were not allowed to
participate. CDP and MPP had greater opportunities than
other parties to appear in media.
Power is largely concentrated on a well-educated
elite, the military and representatives of the
traditionally strong trade union movement.
Women often have a subordinate position in Burkinian
society. Few are active in politics. After the 2015
election, 17 out of 127 members were women, which
corresponds to just over 13 percent, and in 2016, seven
out of 30 government ministers were women (see Social
Since 2015, violence from jihadist groups has
intensified, revealing how weak Kaboré's government is.
It also makes it difficult to push through democratic
reforms. Around 450 people have been killed, and since
the beginning of 2019, there have been emergency permits
in 14 violent provinces in the northern, western and
eastern parts of the country. The security forces were
given greater powers to search through people's homes
and to restrict the residents' freedom of movement.
Corruption is widespread, especially within the
police force, and the control bodies that exist have
major shortcomings. According to the organization
Transparency International's index list of perceived
corruption in the countries of the world, in 2019
Burkina Faso ranked 85 out of 180 countries, seven
rankings worse than the year before.
Freedom of expression and media
Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are
guaranteed in the constitution and the freedom of speech
in the press is still great compared to many other West
African countries. Media conditions have also improved
after the change of power, self-censorship has decreased
and it is no longer as common for politicians to
interfere in the media's work.
Violation is no longer a crime, but the media can
still be sentenced to pay just fine for slander and many
media are fighting against bad finances. A judgment in
2018 also shows how sensitive it is to criticize the
military, especially its counter-terrorism operations.
According to a new law passed by the National Assembly
in June 2019, anyone who spreads fake news and who
reports on terrorism or the work of security forces in a
way that "threatens public order or can affect ongoing
operations" can be sentenced to just over a fine and
imprisonment for up to ten year. However, it has not yet
been approved by the President.
On Reporters Without Borders index of freedom of the
press in the world, Burkina Faso ranked 2019 out of 180
countries, which was 16 positions better than 2014.
The situation for the media deteriorated during the
troubled period following President Compaore's
resignation in October 2014, when a military-backed
transitional government took over the regime. In
connection with the takeover, journalists were harassed
by the military and editors were forced to close
temporarily. Initially, they took control of the
country's etheric media.
One case that has attracted considerable attention
for a long time is the 1998 murder of Norbert Zongo,
editor of the government-critical journal l'Indépendant.
The murder triggered a political crisis (see Modern
History) and has affected the Burkese media climate. A
brother of former President Compaoré, François Compaoré.
has been singled out for involvement in the murder, but
he has never been tried. A charge brought against a
member of the president's life guard was dropped in
2006. The following year, two journalists in the journal
L'Evénement were sentenced to conditional imprisonment
and fines for defamation of Compaoré after submitting a
critical report from the Reporters Without Borders
organization. The previously accused man died in 2009
and other suspects are also reported to be dead. In
March 2015, the investigation into the Zongo murder was
resumed and in December the same year three members of
Compaore's old life guard were indicted. François
Compaoré was arrested in France in 2017 and French
courts have approved his extradition to Burkina Faso
Widespread illiteracy contributes to the fact that
there are only a handful of newspapers. Newspapers are
largely read only by the middle class in the cities.
The most important source of information for the
majority of the population is the state radio RTB, which
reaches across the country and broadcasts in several
different languages. In the cities it has competition
from a large number of privately owned radio stations.
Foreign radio stations also broadcast freely in the
Television broadcasts have since 2006 reached all
over Burkina Faso. In addition to the state television
company, there are a number of privately owned TV
About 18 percent of the population has access to the
internet (2019). Most people who use the internet
connect via mobile.
Legal security and the judiciary
According to the constitution, the judiciary should
be independent, but the judges are ultimately
responsible to the president. The legal system is based
on French law and traditional domestic customary law.
The judiciary is considered to be corrupt and
ineffective. The judiciary also suffers from a great
lack of resources.
The Compaoré government was repeatedly accused of not
investigating suspicions of abuses committed by state
powers. A series of murders and disappearances remained
unresolved. Torture occurred in overcrowded prisons,
where only half of the prisoners received any trial.
The transitional government that took office in 2014
promised to investigate the allegations of human crimes
committed during Compaoré. The transitional government
also resumed closed investigations of unresolved known
crimes, such as the murder of journalist Norbert Zongo
and President Thomas Sankara (Modern History).
In the spring of 2018, the legal proceedings against
84 persons accused of involvement in a failed coup
attempt in 2015 were resumed (see Calendar). However, it
was questioned whether the defendants would receive a
fair trial of their cases, as all members of the
military court had been appointed by the Minister of
Defense and the President. In September 2019, two
generals were sentenced to long prison terms for their
involvement in the coup (see Calendar).
As security in the country deteriorated, reports that
the military was guilty of extra-judicial executions
(see Calendar). In 2019, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
accused the government of killing 115 civilians in
connection with operations against militant jihadist
groups. At the same time, Islamist groups had killed 42
civilians whom they accused of conspiring with the
military. Read HRW's report here.
The death penalty was abolished in 2018. However, as
far as is known, no executions have been carried out
since the 1980s.