Burkina Faso’s people have risen.
Protests in Ouagadougou, the capital, have provoked all kinds of reactions in Africa and the world. The Burkinabe people could not stand silent to yet another violation of democratic law, something that is not rare in some African countries.
On Thursday, people took the streets and burned down the parliament house. What triggered this was the bid for a controversial law that would make the current president Blaise Compaore, already 27 years in power, extend his term further. The people wanted him to resign immediately moved by the realisation that the politicians have gone too far. Fortunately, there can be a limit to which one can take advantage of one’s position of power without suffering the consequences. As Bob Marley said “ You can fool some people some time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”. Undoubtedly, the people have had enough of being pulled by the leg and stood up for their rights.
Chaos and violence, combined with a desire for freedom, filled the streets of Ouagadougou. Tweets about the happenings showed a general feeling that this event was seen as the first piece of the dice to fall. People are calling it the Black Spring.
Astonishingly, Blaise Compaore is not even amongst the five longest-serving presidents in Africa. There are more than 15 leaders of African countries who have been in power for more than 10 years, and many of these have been in power for more than twenty or thirty years. These authoritarian leaders have often modified the constitutions of their own country to make the law suit their greed to stay in power. Most do all this in the name of their people, and most of them have created a circle of ‘trustees’ (sheep would seem like a more appropriate term here) around them who hold the wealth of the country between them. Most ‘presidents’ and their group of ‘trustees’ have children who study and live abroad, enjoying the ‘lush’ life of the west. The people certainly do not enjoy the same privileges.
Like we saw in the Arab spring, when a regional influence resulted in a series of protests in North Africa, there is nothing stopping this mass protest to have a similar effect. In a tweet, someone mentioned:
“From the streets of Ouagadogou a message is being passed to Cameroon’s Paul Biya (40 years in power) – Mbasongo (E.Guinea, 35 years), Jose dos Santos (Angola, 35 years), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe, 34 years), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda, 28 years), Omar Bashir (Sudan, 25 years) Idris Deby (Chad, 23 Years), Isalas Afwerki (Eritrea, 23 years) Yahya Jammeh (Gambia, 20 years) and Denis Nguesso (Congo, 17 years). Dictators who have abducted their countries for years. “
Whilst this article was being written, the news has changed several times. First Compaore had agreed to stay in power until elections in 2015, but five minutes ago the news came that Campoere has resigned from presidency urging elections within 90 days. Military chief Gen Honore Traore said he has taken over as head of state “in line with constitutional measures”.
The African Union has expressed deep concern about the unfolding situation in Burkina Faso, fearing an increase in violence and looting. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chairperson for the Commission, is following its evolution very closely as is the rest of the world.
Burkinabes have gained consciousness of their rights and succeeded in their first aim. Hopefully, the military government will keep its promise and Burkina Faso’s success will encourage people in other African countries with long-serving authoritarian rulers to rebel and claim their rights in a systematic manner.
What the world can do now is stand in awe of the people who throughout history have stood up against dictators in their countries and those who continue to do so. From the people in Egypt, to those in Tunisia, Thailand, Myanmar, Russia, Ukraine, Burkina Faso and many others.