A six-paragraph statement from the country’s armed forces named Lt. Col. Isaac Zida leader of a government “whose form and duration will be determined later.” It was signed by Gen. Nabéré Honoré Traoré, one of three military leaders who had in the past 24 hours proclaimed himself in charge.
The move was ironic for the tens of thousands who had demonstrated in the capital in recent days, some burning government buildings, in a bid to evict their president of 27 years, Blaise Compaore. Mr. Compaore had been seeking a constitutional change that would have let him run for a fifth term, before he resigned and sped by car to Ivory Coast.
And yet his successor, Lt. Col. Zida, was a top member of his presidential security detail. “They were completely together,” said a political figure close to Mr. Compaore.
The rise of an obscure junior officer to the helm of the country highlights the superficiality of Burkina Faso’s democracy—a condition it shares with many of its fragile neighbors. During Mr. Compaore’s reign, opposition was minimal, elections were conducted through a patronage system, and institutions were built around the 63-year-old leader, who himself seized power in a coup.
France and the U.S. have both said they would be forced to cut aid if the new military regime stands. A group of opposition leaders also denounced the coup, saying in a statement: “The victory from this popular insurrection belongs to the people.”
Still, many residents of the capital, Ouagadougou, accepted the new regime upon returning to the streets of the low-slung, art-deco city Saturday.
“We need a little rest, and a little order, and after we have some discipline, then we can have an election,” said Soro Amades, a travel agent who joined the demonstrations. “There is no political class ready to take power right now.”
The junior officer’s emergence was swift. On Thursday and Friday, as protesters swarmed the capital, Lt. Col. Zida ran to a barrack and addressed ordinary soldiers.
“It’s there that he proposed himself as a candidate, with his comrades,” said the political figure, who asked not be identified. “But he needs to pay attention: He had better be afraid of the street.”