Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beneath the surface

I've always was eloquently about the peace and calm in Burkina Faso and how its stability was one of the prime reasons for me selecting it as base camp.

That sense of confidence was shaken a little this morning as a small riot broke out in the Ville Central, around the Grand Marche.

Life, the heart of commerce takes place around the Market Places of Africa and any disturbance causes ripples around it.

A few years ago the Grand Marche of Ouaga caught fire and was completely destroyed and it was only recently that its successor was opened not with out some controversy. You see the powers that be had decided that there would be a restrictions to the entry of traffic - so Police Boxes were set up at all four corners an the four roads around the market were virtually closed to all traffic - not the best of ideas I was thinking, after all, a market needs free access on foot and vehicular too.

Since the opening thee have been meetings and some breaks in the peace as the traders agitated for the removal of the barriers - met with some success last week after a showdown with the Mayor.

Ill feeling still prevailed though which was sparked off this morning following a death in Police custody. From what I hear a young man died as a result of being run over by a truck apparently as he was being lead away by the Police for some misdeed or the other.

Within an hour, crowds surrounded the Marche in agitation and just as quickly the surrounding shops put up their shutters in anticipation of the worse. The token Police presence was jeered and hooted at, with the crowed of men becomingly increasingly more daring. As things got to the point when two of the Police pill boxes were set alight, the riot Police descended, firing of a few smoke canisters... time now I thought for me to remove myself from the scene.

This incident I think speaks of more than just this particular issue, it stems from the general unrest that the populace feels. A change to the constitution in 1991 saw the creation of a semi-presidential government consisting of a parliament and a President of the Republic, who is elected for a term of seven years. An amendment n 2000 reduced the Presidents term to 5 yrs, taking effect during the elections of 2005. This should have prevented the incumbent from taking office again, however it was argued that it did not apply retrospectively and M. Blaise Compaoré returned as the President with reportedly 80% of the votes in an election boycotted by the opposition.

The President of Burkina Faso has been in office since 1987 following a coup in which he was implicated in the assassination of his predecessor Thomas Sankara a charismatic and popular president with masses who however failed to win over the support of those in positions of influence - his policies toward fighting corruption, promoting reforestation, averting famine, and making education and health real priorities sadly did not go well with the elitists of the country. It was during his tenure that Burkina Faso was so named, replacing Upper Volta.

As things stand now, the next election is due toward the latter part of 2010. It should be stated that since the coup of 1987, BF has become one of the most politically stable of the West African countries albeit it seems at the cost of civil rights. The country remains one of the poorest in the world, ranked number three according to the UN

What will happen next year is anyone's guess, the only real opponent apparently is Benewende Stanislas Sankara, who in the 2005 election received 4% of the votes.

Irrespective of who wins, ultimately it is the Burkinabes who need to benefit from all of this - a gentle polite people, they deserve to have things get better for them; I hope it happens soon

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