Burkina Faso president names Lassina Zerbo as prime minister


The 58-year-old geophysicist is to take office amid rising popular discontent over deadly violence in the country.

Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has named Lassina Zerbo as the country’s new prime minister, according to a decree.

Zerbo, a 58-year-old geophysicist and the former head of a top nuclear watchdog, is to take office in the face of growing popular dissatisfaction over a deteriorating security crisis that has gripped Burkina Faso for years.

“The president … decrees: Lassina Zerbo is named prime minister,” government spokesman Stephane Wenceslas Sanou said, reading the decree on television.

A new cabinet lineup is expected in the coming days.

Zerbo was executive secretary of the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) from 2013 until August.

He is relatively unknown to most Burkinabes but has gained some recognition abroad for his efforts towards banning nuclear explosive testing.

Under pressure to make changes, Kabore fired Prime Minister Christophe Dabire on Wednesday, the latest upheaval in a leadership shake-up that has included military top brass.

Opposition and civil society groups have repeatedly expressed their discontent with the government’s management of the security crisis, taking to the streets to demand Kabore step down.

In late November, 10 people were hurt, including a child and two journalists, when police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in the capital, Ouagadougou.

Escalating violence

Burkina Faso is at the heart of a conflict that has swept through large parts of the arid Sahel region, killing thousands of people, forcing millions more from their homes and leaving an immense humanitarian crisis in its wake

Despite efforts by regional armies and former colonial ruler France, attacks by armed groups linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda continue unabated, leaving local communities vulnerable.

In Burkina Faso, the peak of the violence came last month when dozens of people, mostly gendarmes, were killed in the country’s north.

Two weeks before they were attacked, the gendarmes had warned headquarters that they were running short of supplies and were having to trap animals to eat.

They had been waiting in vain for several days for a relief force when they came under attack from hundreds of fighters on pick-up trucks and motorcycles, according to accounts of the battle.

Before the new prime minister was named, on Friday night, Kabore had called all Burkinabes to rally to overcome “terrorism”.

“I make a call, to all daughters and sons of our nation, to support the war effort, each according to their abilities,” he said, without providing more details.

Late on Thursday, the armies of Burkina Faso and neighbouring Niger said they had killed about 100 “terrorists” in a joint military operation against armed groups on the border between November 25 and December 9.

They had also dismantled two bases, one on either side of the frontier, they said in a joint statement.

Kabore was first elected in 2015, a year after his predecessor Blaise Compaore, who seized power in 1987, was forced out by mass protests for seeking to change the constitution to remain in office.



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