Burkina Faso bans ousted Compaore's party, piling more misery on Africa's once-formidable ruling outfits


Once ousted from office, it is often a long road back for most, as weak centres collapse-lessons Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia to reflect on.

BURKINA Faso’s interim government said Monday it was “suspending” the party of ousted president Blaise Compaore, who is now back in exile in Cote d’Ivoire, following a short stay in Morocco.

“The party named the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) has been suspended for activities incompatible with the law,” said Auguste Denise Barry, who heads the equivalent of the interior ministry, said in a statement.

Compaore fled Burkina Faso on October 31 after being ousted in a revolt sparked by his bid to extend his 27-year hold on power.

The military seized power and made Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida interim prime minister. Faced with intense international pressure, the military eventually agreed to hand power over to an interim government, and Zida was given the temporary premiership until elections are held in November 2015.

The CDP was created from 13 pro-Compaore groups in 1996 and was a pillar of his regime, winning every election and, after 2007 elections handed the strongman president an absolute parliamentary majority.

Long road back

It could however be a long road back for the CDP,  following in the footsteps of former African ruling parties that once bestrode the political landscape, before losing power and withering.

Its experience could mirror that of the Ivorian Popular Front, FPI, founded by history professor Laurent Gbagbo in 1982 and which took power in 2000. Following Gbagbo’s ouster in 2011, the party has been struggling for traction, and while it could still be a major force in next year’s presidential election, it looks set for a spell on the sidelines if it fails  in its battle to remain relevant.

The FPI took over from the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire – African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA) which until its electoral loss had been the only legal party in the country from independence in 1960, until 1990, when under Félix Houphouët-Boigny it managed to retain power in the country’s first multi-party elections.  

Houphouët-Boigny’s successor, Henri Konan Bédié, was however ousted in a 1999 coup, and while he still retains leadership, has been largely consigned to playing the role of king-maker.

Other former behemoths have had a bumpier ride. The Kenyan African National Union (KANU), in its heyday was master of all it surveyed, remains a shell of its former self, following the retirement of its long-time ruler Daniel Arap Moi in 2002. 

Moi’s  chosen candidate on the once-powerful ruling party, Uhuru Kenyatta, lost elections that year to a coalition of politicians led by Mwai Kibaki, many having defected from KANU. 

Kenyatta is now president on a Jubilee Coalition ticket, while Kanu, an ally, has continued its steep descent, with its 2003 eviction from its headquarters—-a taxpayer-funded conference centre—among the final indignities. It currently has six legislators in the 290-seat National Assembly.

Vehicles to power

Zambia’s United National Independence Party, was ousted in the country’s first multi-party elections in 1991, having governed from 1964. Led by Kenneth Kaunda’s son Tilyenji, it has now been relegated to a makeweight in alliances, and in the presidential election of 2008 had no candidate winning on its ticket, picking up a miserly 0.36% of the national vote.

South Africa’s National Party was in power between 1948 to 1994, and sought to survive by allying itself with both the opposition and the ruling African National Congress. It eventually renamed itself the New National Party but voted to dissolve in 2005.

Uganda’s independence power, Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), of which members sang “UPC everywhere”, is all but dead, following the ouster for a second time of its founder Milton Obote from power by a military coup in 1985. In the ultimate act of humiliation, in the 2011 its current leader, the otherwise well-spoken, suave, but politically inept Olara Otunnu, failed to show up to vote for himself in presidential polls.

Much the same fate has fallen former all-powerful ruling parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Senegal among other countries.

Experts attribute the low survival rates of former ruling parties in part to being formed only as vehicles to power, with little by way of ideology in an environment where elections are zero-sum—the winner takes all.

In his book Globalisation and the Seduction of Africa’s Ruling Class, Prof Matial Friendeithie argues that political parties in Africa are generally vessels for, among others; personalism, regionalism, ethnicism, patronage, and violence, rather than promoting national growth.

As such little holds most of them together apart from self-interest, contributing to their gradual demise when the centre ceases to hold. 

That the CDP’s fate is only following an ordained script will be of little comfort to Compaore’s allies, though. 

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