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Will Burkina Faso inspire more power shifts around Africa? – Part 2

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    For more on this, I'm joined now by Nii Akuetteh of the African Immigrant Caucus, an organization aimed at increasing political influence of the African diaspora. His career has focused on fostering relationships between the U.S. and African nations.

    And welcome to you.

  • NII AKUETTEH, African Immigrant Caucus:

    Thank you.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    How important is this for the people of Burkina Faso, and why?

  • NII AKUETTEH:

    It is very important to them.

    They have been pushing for — to have democracy in their country for years. The president who just departed has actually proved very agile. So, frankly, yesterday, I wasn't sure that he would not be able to ride this out as well. So that they have removed him, and with street protests, I think the military just came in to stabilize the situation. This is a people's revolution and it's really important.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    We have seen in a number of countries, of course in Libya, but also elsewhere, where a strongman goes, but there isn't the infrastructure, there isn't the civil society in place, and turmoil ensues.

    Are there comparisons to be made here?

  • NII AKUETTEH:

    I think a little bit.

    I seriously doubt that it will get as bad as Libya, for one thing because of the influence of the African Union and the regional organization ECOWAS. They say, if you come to power by unconstitutional means, you are out of the club, but we will help you hold elections.

    And then the military, they have the examples of Mali and other places to look at and Guinea. So, I expect they will hold their elections and quickly leave, but there are no guarantees.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    What about the U.S. interests? We referred to it in our setup piece. How — how — this has been an ally of the U.S. What now?

  • NII AKUETTEH:

    I think the U.S. is watching the situation carefully.

    In fact, when Mr. Compaore tried to change the constitution and stay a few days ago, the U.S. was not happy. When he decided to withdraw that bill, they issued a statement supporting that. So I think they are trying to hang on to a situation in which they have lost an ally, but they want to have more democratic processes, so to deal with whoever comes in. Burkina is very indeed strategically placed in the — a turbulent region, so I think the U.S. will try to help work with those who come, who take power next.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    This is a region that doesn't get a lot of attention here for the most part.

    What does something like this tell us about the potential for change in other countries in the region, if anything at all?

  • NII AKUETTEH:

    I think what it does say is that there are people, frankly, the ordinary people in many African countries, yearning to have the power to throw out their leaders if they don't like them.

    Usually, these leaders are allies of powerful countries outside. So, for me, it says that such other countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, DRC, they bear watching, because you never know when the people will gain the upper hand.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And do you see people in all of these countries gaining a new voice?

  • NII AKUETTEH:

    I think they do, but what might happen is that the presidents in those countries are pretty wily at holding onto power.

    So it wouldn't surprise me if they suppress news of what's happening in Burkina Faso, if they put their security forces out there to hold on more tightly to power.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And, briefly, you mentioned Mali as one example, but where there are countries with Islamist groups, in Burkina Faso and — or in elsewhere in this region, are there groups potentially there to step in?

  • NII AKUETTEH:

    Yes. Yes, there are.

    So I think it has to be watched carefully. Mali has not really been pacified, even with the French help. Niger has done a pretty good job on its own. But it's still not out of the woods. And, of course, Nigeria is pretty powerful and has been competent, but they have not contained Boko Haram. So there are things to watch out for and be concerned about in West Africa.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    All right, Nii Akuetteh, thank you very much.

  • NII AKUETTEH:

    Pleasure.

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