Burkina Faso’s Sub-Saharan Spring

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“This is a sub-Saharan spring and it must continue against all presidents trying to hang onto power in Africa.”

IT was a Law student, Lucien Trinnou, speaking last Friday in Ouagadougou, that gave this description of the uprising in Burkina Faso, which swept away, Blaise Compaore, one of the most despicable characters to ever seized power in any African country. When Compaore murdered the revolutionary icon, Thomas Sankara, in October 1978, he murdered the hopes of millions of the working people, the youth and poor people, not only in Burkina Faso, but all over the African continent.

This was because in his depth of analyses of the conditions in his country and the continent; in the charismatic and openly transparent leadership as well as genuine commitment to liberation from imperialism, Thomas Sankara embodied the very best values of all the African peoples. His murder by Blaise Compaore, an agent of imperial powers, was one of those genuinely felt pains by the African peoples and oppressed peoples around the world.

Thomas Sankara had belonged to the Union of Communist Officers, along with Henry Zongo, Jean-Baptise Lingani and Compaore. But it was clear that the assassin, Blaise, nursed a different vision of power and in cahoots with Zongo and Lingani, had conspired against Sankara; and determined to wield absolute power, Blaise Compaore would eventually kill the other two to become the sole leader of a country whose soul had been interred along with the hero of the people, Thomas Sankara. Murder was a central instrument of Compaore’s27 long years in power and one of the most notorious came at the end of 1998, when Norbert Zongo, the investigative journalist, was killed. Zongo’s murder became a turning point for the country.


Over the past twenty-seven years, the Burkinabe people and the African continent witnessed the spectacle of the assassin’s desperate search for legitimacy and acceptance. He was a major organizer of insurgencies around West Africa and walking on both sides of the road, he also postured as the regional peacemaker. In recent years, he became one of the greatest collaborators with the Franco-American anti-terror campaigns in West Africa; a role that he milked for his own survival and the deep-seated hope of leaning on, to extend his stay in power.

People celebrate in the capital Ouagadougou after Burkina Faso’s embattled President Blaise Compaore announced earlier on October 31, 2014, he was stepping down to make way for elections following a violent uprising against his 27-year rule. Blaise took power in a coup in 1987 but quickly swapped the “democratic revolution’s” Marxist ideals for authoritarian rule. AFP PHOTO

It became clear that Blaise Compaore had overreached himself and miscalculated the portents. The opposition was beginning to abandon its fractious ways and had found the elusive unity; it was becoming more difficult for Compaore to play one party against other. A vibrant civil society had also evolved in Burkina Faso willing to play a crucial role to stop the assassin’s tenure extension plan; and there was also the important demographic situation: 60percent of the Burkinabe population of about 17million people are under the age of 25. According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, only 5% of the working age adults are employed full time. The educated young people have known no other leader except Blaise Compaore.

While his Western backers had often praised the stability he allegedly presided over and his ready embrace of neoliberal policies, the Burkinabe economy was not creating the jobs to absorb its very frustrated young population. And despite the bluster, Burkina Faso was 181st out of 187 on the UN Human Development Index. It was a combination of all these factors that hastened his cowardly departure. And to underline his role as an asset of imperialism, French President, Francois Hollande, this week Tuesday, told a press conference, in Canada that: “we made sure Compaore was evacuated to Ivory Coast by making available all useful resources”.

He departed owing to the determined resistance of the Burkinabe people.Last Thursday, parliament was poised to approve legislation that would have facilitated Compaore’s extension of stay in power for another five years. Tens of thousands of Burkinabe, most of them young people, took to the streets in Ouagadougou, BoboDioulasso and other parts of the country. In BoboDioulasso, Compaore’s statue was toppled, while parliament was set on fire, disallowing the complicit parliamentarians from sitting. Other government buildings were also touched along with hotels, shops and residences of regime supporters. French diplomatic sources said about thirty people were killed in the demonstrations.

It was a shell shocked and drained Blaise Compaore that addressed the nation from a private television station, because the state broadcaster had also been taken off air. He desperately attempted to use the military to shore up his position in what appeared like a coup against the mass uprising; but his time was up! The imperial powers had become willing to sacrifice the assassin and there are even reports that General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was visiting Dakar, Senegal, made a detour to Ouagadougou, to encourage Blaise Compaore to leave the scene.

In the end, he ran with tail between his legs and is holed up in an Ivorian resort. Blaise Compaore must not be allowed to find the peace and tranquility he denied millions of people. Not only that, he must get his day in court to answer for the crimes he committed against the Burkinabe people and Africa, with the murder of Thomas Sankara and Norbert Zongo. He must also explain why he executed Henry Zongo and Jean Baptiste Lingani and several other Burkinabe patriots. The Burkinabe people have put on notice all other African sit-tight leaders. They have called it a sub-Saharan spring! Africa deserves democratic cultures genuinely rooted in the aspirations of the African peoples. Last week in Ouagadougou, the people spoke and kicked out one of the most despicable rulers to ever appear on the horizon of leadership in our continent, Blaise Comp  aore!


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