Burkina FasoIt was an aha moment for the people of Burkina Fast, the Land of Upright People, to recount and celebrate their hard earned political success after a long and bloody fight.

Burkinabes were sick and tired of a never-satisfied dictator who catapulted to power after the 1987 unpopular bloody coup d’eat that ousted Captain Thomas Sankara from power. Africa’s darling leader whose leadership style became the envy of the world was brutally assassinated along with 10 of his cabinet ministers. The man who filled Sankara’s shoes was his closest friend, Blaise Compaoré, who until his forceful ouster in October last year never explained who assassinated Africa’s Che Guevara. He had been on denial, insisting “the facts are clear.” The unpopular Campaore would later rule Burkina Faso with iron fist for 27 years. His government trampled on basic freedom, including that of press and assassinated its “perceived enemies.” One of them whose callous murder remains unsolved was journalist Norbert Zongo who was liquidated with several others, including his brother and driver. Accusing fingers were pointed at the Republican Guards yet nothing happened.

Burkinabes of all walks of life have tasted Compaoré’s bitterness. A rising star musician whose excellent performance kept us entertained in Ougadougou in April 2007 soon had to run for his life. His only crime – there is any – is to question why Thomas Sankara’s death remains uninvestigated. But the brave people of Burkina Faso battled it out with the repressive regime, stepping on barbed wires until last year when Compaoré wanted to bastardise the constitution so he could run for a third term in office. His firm control over the parliament and the judiciary almost worked to his advantage. But opposition started mounting from every nook and cranny of the country, with record number of youths resorting to protest. A split between Compaoré and his ally former Prime Minister Roch Marc Christian Kabore (newly electedPresident) rekindled protest spirit. The President’s attempts to lean on the parliament to lift the constitutional hurdle threw thousands on the streets of Ouagadougou. They burnt down buildings, including the parliament, forcing Compaoré to declare a state of emergency before fleeing to Ivory Coast. He left behind a gaping hole and the result was a military power struggle, which ended without gunshots. Lt. Col. Yacoub Zida took over from General Honore Traore.

With pressure coming from left and right, the military bowed down and passed the baton to an interim civilian government tasked with preparing the country for free and fair election within a year. Michele Kafando’s regime banned Mr. Compaoré’s party from contesting in election. Then a former Compaoré ally seized power in September. General Gilbert Giendere gave up power after one week. He was arrested and has his hands full of charges. They include mutiny and complicit in Sankara’s assassination. His short-lived coup d’etat pushed the election to early December when Burkinabe voters compensated Roch Kabore for his defiance against dictatorship. He polled 53% of the votes in the first round.  

Several heads of state attended President Kabore’s inauguration in Ouagadougou on Sunday. President Jammeh was not among them.

Mr Kabore, who became the sixth President to lead the West African nation in less than one year three months, promised to defend the constitution and “ensure justice for all.”

The excitement of Kabore followed the arrest of 20 soldiers accused of trying to free General Diendere and co-accused accused from prison. They also planned to revive the banned Republican guards, the unit that has been notorious for entrenching the ousted leader in power. 

The people of Burkina Faso have never relented in their fight for democracy, despite treading on danger. It was messy, bloody and painful but that was the only viable option the oppressed Burkinabes had.

Ends

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