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Africa

Phone scandal overshadows victory of Burkina Faso's new President

media Presidential candidate Roch Marc Kabore (c) votes during the presidential and legislative election at a polling station in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Penney

After months of political turmoil, Burkina Faso elected former prime minister Roch Marc Christian Kaboré as its new president on Tuesday. It's the country's first free elections since former leader Blaise Compaoré was ousted in a popular uprising in October last year. Kaboré's victory comes amidst a phone-leak scandal implicating Cote d'Ivoire's parliamentary president Guillaume Soro, accused of fomenting September’s military coup.

The "affair" broke out a few weeks ago, even before Marc Roch Christian Kaboré looked set to secure a landslide victory in Burkina Faso's first free elections.

The "affair Soro-Bassolé" is essentially leaked recordings of a phone conversation between Burkina Faso's former Foreign Minister Djibril Bassolé and Côte d'Ivoire's parliamentary president Guillaume Soro.

In the discussion, the two men are heard plotting the failed coup that was carried out by presidential guards loyal to Blaise Compaore on September 16th.

Their conversation has since gone viral on social media, but in political circles, leaders have tried to downplay the significance of the tapes, with Guillaume Soro denouncing what he calls "a set-up."

The allegations are still yet to be confirmed, but the scandal has caused embarrassment for Guillaume Soro, and more broadly, risks putting a strain on relations between Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

These relations were already strained explains William Assanvo, a researcher at the Institute of Security Studies in Senegal: "What is important to keep in mind is the fact that the relationship between Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso has over the past decade really been tense," he told RFI.

"You remember the role Burkina Faso reportedly played in supporting the rebellion in Cote d'Ivoire that started in 2002... There were also information of weapons coming from Burkina Faso that fuelled the conflict."

At the head of that rebellion, was former rebel leader-turned parliamentary president Guillaume Soro. It's no secret that he has close links with military authorities in Burkina Faso. Blaise Compaoré is believed to have facilitated his rise to power.

Soro is thus likely to disapprove of President Kaboré's electoral victory accord analysts, especially as Kaboré is seen as responsible for the demise of his mentor Compaoré.

"Ivoirians consider the MPP party [Movement of People for Progress] and Roch Marc Kaboré, as a traitor because he was one of the key figures of the ruling CDP party, and then he decided to join protesters who were against Blaise Compaoré's bid to seek a third term in office," says Assanvo.

Abidjan's silence perceived as complicity

Blaise Compaoré's attempts to change the constitution to extend his 27-year rule sparked weeks of violent protests and forced him to flee the country. He sought refuge in Cote d'Ivoire.

Abidjan has remained conspicuously silent since the popular uprising that ousted him from power.

Professor Dragoss Ouedraogo from the University of Bordeaux says it’s difficult for Ivorian leaders to comment:

“It’s difficult for them because Blaise Compaoré is still living in Ivory Coast and during the coup d’état in September led by the General Gilbert Diendere, Ivory Coast was in connection with Diendere to make the coup and information has been discovered purporting that Guillaume Soro was in connection with the military that tried to orchestrate the coup,” he told RFI.

Indeed, a report by a commission set up by Burkina Faso’s transition government to investigate the coup, did conclude that General Diendere received external support, especially from Côte d'Ivoire.

Whatever comes out of the phone-scandal, Ouedraogo says it won't undermine the deep-rooted history between the two countries.

"Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso have for a long time had relations in history. Their relations have many connections," he explains.

A large Burkinabé community currently lives in Cote d'Ivoire – they're estimated to be roughly 4 million. And in the past, citizens in Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso could have shared the same nationality, had proposals by their previous leaders gone through.

"It's not a wise move for the two countries to complicate their relations," Ouedraogo insists.

"What will suffer from all of this", continues Assanvo, "is perhaps Guillaume Soro's political ambitions for 2020." The parliamentary president will not be able to count on the same military support as he received under Compaoré, he alludes.

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