It all started last October 21 when the government of Burkina Faso, with a bill, attempted to transform Article 37 of the Constitution. The objective? To increase the number of presidential terms from two to three, so that the head of state in charge, Blaise Compaoré could recur in November of 2015.
The Blaise Compaoré curriculum tells one of the many sad stories of post-colonialism. He became president after the assassination of Thomas Sankara, the Marxist leader of Burkina Faso who publicly denounced the dirty tricks of the banks and Western governments to subjugate African countries with debt.
The President had already changed the constitution twice, in 1997 and 2000.
The people down in the streets marched on October 31 for the resignation of Compaoré. The outcome of the events is at was thirty dead and dozens of others injured.
The proposed constitutional amendment was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but how did it come to this?
Burkina Faso is a country heavily dependent on foreign aid and it is also aware of how precious it is, so much so that in the last 27 years it has been open to any form of cooperation, taking care of its international image.
Having said that, Blaise Compaoré has failed for years to “hide” his dictatorship; a “Man of the West” he has become a point of reference, especially in the United States and France. Compaoré has enjoyed the support of various countries and become essential, while selling the image of a poor country that is, at the same time, well-managed and able to resolve regional crises. Another important factor has been that Compaoré has made it appear that he is able to help, with the aid of his networks, Westerners who have been imprisoned by the Islamist movements operating in the space of the Sahel and the Sahara. In recent years, the head of state has strengthened ties with the Franco-American duo, accepting that Burkina Faso would serve as a military base for the monitoring of the Sahara. This agreement has allowed the regime to avoid criticism, pressure, or even worse, penalties for his involvement in political crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. This convenience for the international community has meant that no critical eye has accepted the crude reality of the dictatorship, until the breaking point of the past month.
Now, the new man in power is Isaac Zida. He was appointed by the army, at the head of a transitional regime. But after the resignation of Compaore, Burkina Faso has plunged into a constitutional crisis, exacerbated by violent demonstrations against the military junta that took over.
On November 2, the soldiers of the Presidential Security Regiment, an elite military unit under the leadership of Colonel Isaac Zida, carried out a raid at the headquarters of state television, the RTB (Radio Diffusion Télévision du Burkina). The military has also prevented broadcasting from going on air.
The leader of the opposition, Saran Sereme, and former Defense Minister, Kwame Lougue were previously going to officially announce their willingness to take the reins of the country to lead the transition, pending new elections.
The situation in Burkina Faso is a strong warning bell that rings in a continent that is awakening.
If the democratic way does not return as the rule of law, it is likely that other countries will be dragged into the blizzard. The solution, the only one that can make the continent safe from uprisings and coups, similar to what happened in Burkina Faso, is the organization of free and fair elections. What is happening in this country must be remembered in the history of the people of Africa, as a stimulus that will surely stir up dormant revolutions and that have taken place on several occasions across the continent- although with different outcomes. It now remains to be seen how the situation will be handled after the era of Compaore- for now it does not seem to be doing the country any good and the tension is high.
Just over 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and little seems to have changed: democracy remains an impossible dream and the West continues to come to terms with dictators for their own interests.