Burkina Faso’s newly elected President Roch Marc Kabore was sworn into office in the capital Ouagadougou on Tuesday, making him the country’s first new leader in almost 30 years. The inauguration ceremony marked a pivotal moment in a democratic transition after last month’s presidential election and the end of a transitional government, Reuters reported.
"I take this opportunity to institute a rich social dialogue with the Burkinabe people so that together we can break the chains of misery and make a strong, dignified and respected nation," Kabore, 57, said while delivering his first speech as president before thousands of supporters.
Kabore won the Nov. 29 presidential election, which was the first to be held in Burkina Faso since longtime ruler Blaise Compaore was ousted in 2014. Kabore once served as a prime minister in Compaore’s government and was a close ally until the two politicians fell out. Kabore opposed Compaore’s bid to change the constitution and extend his 27-year term. Compaore was forced to resign by a popular uprising and fled to Ivory Coast last year.
A transitional government was quickly appointed to steer Burkina Faso to elections. But the country plunged deeper into chaos in September this year when soldiers of the elite presidential guard who remained loyal to Compaore interrupted a cabinet meeting at the presidential palace and kidnapped interim President Michel Kafando, interim Prime Minister Isaac Zida and two ministers. Thousands of people protested on the streets demanding an end to the declared coup d’état, which was condemned by leaders around the world. Troops loyal to the transitional government converged on the capital and ended the rebellion a week later.
Gen. Gilbert Diendere, an ally of Compaore, has been charged with staging the coup, and authorities have arrested some 20 soldiers for plotting to free him from prison, Reuters reported.
Kabore, who heads the center-left People’s Movement for Progress party, has pledged to defend Burkina Faso’s constitution and “ensure justice for all,” according to BBC News. He has also vowed to revive the economy and tackle “fundamental needs” like improving access to water, healthcare and education. Kabore worked as a banker for several years before entering politics.
"We need to organize ourselves to take in hand the whole country's preoccupations because our first objective is not simply to revive the economy but at the same time to satisfy the fundamental needs of the whole population," Kabore told Reuters after being declared the winner of the presidential elections on Dec. 1. "The challenges are numerous and multiple in Burkina Faso. They include education, healthcare, access to clean water and the economy.”
Burkina Faso, a tiny, landlocked country that borders Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Niger, is rich in cotton and gold but remains one of the world’s poorest nations. Since Compaore fell from rule, slumping global commodity prices, reduced foreign investment and political unrest have slowed the economy. The finance minister has said the economy will expand by 4 to 4.5 percent this year, compared to a World Bank figure of 6 percent growth in 2014.
"I would like to issue an appeal for more substantial partnership from the international community and financial and economic partners for the efforts to kickstart the economy and improve our country's governance,” Kabore said Tuesday, according to Reuters.