Coming change to the country of people of integrity: Burkina Faso

The late president Thomas Sankara, after his military coup in 1984, renamed his country, previously called Haute Volta, Burkina Faso, or the country of people of integrity. As his short lived life would show, he was on a transformative journey for his nation and compatriots into a complete different society. His revolution comrade and friend soldier Blaise Compaore, would betray the ideals their group pursued and got him assassinated in October 1987. Since then he has been leading the country until today, this means for almost 25 years.

Sokari Ekine, in her article-contribution to the book Africa Awakenings – The Emerging Revolutions, ‘the never- ending revolution: perspectives from the African blogosphere’, reflects on aspirations for political change in the country of Blaise Compaore, this in the light of popular uprisings which as early 2011 removed dictators from power in Tunisia and Egypt. Ekine finds for example that Burkina Faso has many ‘structural similarities’ with the latter countries. On this perspective, the author cites Chouti:

‘Events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya certainly have encouraged mobilisation in Burkina Faso, where people also want the current regime ‘out’. From slogans such as ‘Tunisia is in Koudougou’ and ‘Burkina will have its Egypt’ to caricatures on Facebook, there are echoes of the Arab spring in the country and some youth groups in Koudougou have even compared Justin Zongo to Mohamed Bouaziz. In contrast to Ben Ali’s Tunisia and Mubarak’s Egypt, Burkina Faso has always had a certain degree of freedom of information and expression and the right to organise. It is easier for young people from under-privileged classes to meet and plan their actions in person rather than on the net.

Essentially, the resemblance to the uprisings in the north lies in structural similarities – an unequal society, high unemployment, the lack of future perspectives, police violence, impunity, a closed political system, a bourgeoisie tied in with a non-functioning political administration and the longevity of the regime.’

According to Ekine, the formation of the protests in Burkina Faso have been quite different and in a sense more complex than others on the continent. While in some situations the police have apologised to protestors for violence, the government, traders and unemployed youth have at various times been in confrontation with the mutinous armed forces, who at the same time turned against the state. Ekine refers to Pierre Sidy for description of the context:

‘Its [the regime] appropriation of the state for its own profit has confirmed the true nature of a regime which starves its population and represses its youth, re-electing itself some four times since 1991 despite outcomes contested by its opponents – 24 years of a regime of tyranny and a highly effective mission to defend strategic French neo-colonial interests in West Africa until its power becomes obsolete.

In this context, the youth’s frustrations and the general social disintegration have crystallised dangerously in the shape of coordinated confrontations with the symbols of the regime. The mutiny of the presidential guard on 14 April (and then in other military camps in Kaya, Po and Tekodogo) has met a violent response from local traders furious at the looting of rebel soldiers, leading ultimately to demonstrators from various sectors coming together to burn down the headquarters of the party in power – the CDP (Congress for Democracy and Progress) – and the government and the mayor of Ouagadougou. In response, Compaore imposed a curfew in the capital, retreated to his hometown, dissolved the government and dismissed the army chiefs. On 27 April, it was the turn of the police to rebel, as the school pupils, students and youth broaden their movement.’

 

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