Today’s guest post comes from an independent anticorruption expert based in West Africa, who writes under the pseudonym Girolamo de Lys and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org:
A fortnight ago, at a donor roundtable in Paris, the international community—principally the World Bank, EU, France, and United States—promised US$12.4 billion, to be spent over the next four years, in support of Burkina Faso’s national development plan. Hailed as a great success, the conference surpassed everyone’s expectations and raised more than double the target of US$5.8 billion set by the Government of Burkina Faso. Part of the roundtable’s success can be explained by the fact that Burkina Faso is seen as a promising emerging democracy. The country’s 27 years of autocratic rule ended in October 2014 with a popular uprising, and in 2015, the Transitional Government and National Council adopted a series of laws reforming the country’s governance system and bolstering its rule-of-law credentials. These reforms included a new anticorruption law (adopted in March 2015), which prohibits officials from accepting gifts worth more than US$60, and another law strengthening the anticorruption body (adopted in November 2015). Both anticorruption laws are considered by experts as “the most advanced” anticorruption laws in West Africa. However, in recent weeks these laws have come under stress, as they started to show their teeth. As the anticorruption body has opened investigations into the receipt of gifts by members of parliament, some politicians have questioned the desirability of this new anticorruption framework, and the survival of these new laws is now at stake.
The Constitutional Review Commission, set up by the President of Burkina Faso to propose amendments to the Constitution, is now deliberating whether to propose scrapping or watering down the constitutional provision that sets up the anticorruption body and its accompanying organic law. The constitutional revisions will be put to Parliament in early 2017 and some MPs are likely to see this as their chance to finish off an institution capable of scrutinizing their day-to-day conduct and that of the government. If the executive and legislative power of Burkina Faso decide to tinker with the anticorruption laws, by all accounts this will end the anticorruption body’s independence and effectiveness, and end one of the sole adequately established anticorruption legal frameworks in West Africa. Moreover, without an effective anticorruption system in place, the international community’s planned US$12.4 billion investment in Burkina Faso will be at risk of being diverted to private use, rather than contributing to national development projects.
As the international community engages in a constructive dialogue with the Government of Burkina Faso, it ought to consider the following strengths of the current anticorruption system in place and seek its protection from unnecessary legal amendments: Continue reading