Burkina's new PM: a career soldier out of the shadows
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso - Isaac Zida, who kept a firm grip on power in Burkina Faso on Wednesday, November 19, by being named prime minister, is a career soldier who emerged from the shadows following Blaise Compaore's ouster.
"We're not here to steal...power," Lieutenant Colonel Zida said 3 weeks ago as he pledged a quick civilian transition after the military power grab that followed an uprising against Compaore.
On Tuesday the former second-in-command of the presidential guard held his word, when former diplomat turned farmer Michel Kafando was sworn in as Burkina Faso's interim president.
But barely 24 hours later, Zida's appointment as Kafando's head of government - agreed between politicians and army leaders, according to a senior officer - ensured the army keeps its hand firmly on the wheels of power in the months ahead.
The last three weeks tend to point to Zida as a man determined to shape the future of the poor landlocked nation of 17 million. He notably suspended local and regional councils and sacked two heads of state utilities for alleged sabotage.
A well-built 49-year-old Protestant with a moustache and frameless glasses, Zida up until now was a career soldier who had remained in the shadows.
But after Compaore fled, the popular officer won the backing of the military to beat army chief Nabere Honore Traore to the top job, with his former boss considered too close to the deposed leader. (READ: Burkina reinstates constitution, transition deal to be signed Sunday)
"He's a bon vivant who wouldn't hesitate to swap his fatigues for a suit to go around the discos of Ouagadougou," a source close to him said.
Others describe him as steady, serious and reliable. He was one of the few presidential guards spared by mutineers who launched a failed coup in 2011 against Compaore, a military source and a rights activist told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
But some view him with suspicion over his ties with general Gilbert Diendere, who was Compaore's chief of staff.
"He is part of the same network as Diendere. Some don't trust him," one security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Zida hails from Yako, in the centre-north province of Passore, and was trained at the Commando Training Centre of Po - in the south of the west African country, according to one of his aides.
He also received further military training in Morocco and Cameroon and has a masters in international management from Jean Moulin university in Lyon, France.
Zida served as a UN peacekeeper in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a year from 2008, a member of his team told AFP, before travelling to the US to undergo anti-terrorist training in Florida.
During the 2011 political crisis in the Ivory Coast, he was a liaison officer on Compaore's staff while he tried to mediate a solution to the stand-off, a UN source said.
"That's what worries us. He was second-in-command of the presidential guard. Is it really Compaore that is doing the manoeuvring?" a western security source questioned.
"At the moment we can talk to him...but when he is in power he can go his own way," the source added. - Rappler.com