Burkina Faso is in the news these days for two reasons: the discontent of populations that are asking for the resignation of President Roch Marc Kaboré, and the ongoing trial about former President Thomas Sankara’s assassination. This piece addresses the first topic, although the second one is of equally of momentous importance.
Enough is enough
It has been years since Burkina became engulfed in a series of tragic and violent Jihadist attacks that have claimed many lives of both security forces and civilians. The northern part of the country was the initial target with the border with Mali and the one with Niger being the first areas to be hit. At first, people expressed disappointment in the security forces (police and military), then a period of collaboration followed, when citizens expressed their support for the security forces; that was when the Burkinabè, in a patriotic gesture, contributed financially, to support the armed forces, so that all that was needed for their efficient performance was made available to them. But a sudden Jihadist attack, on 14 November, gave a totally new dimension to the rapport between the Burkinabè and their president.
The 14 November carnage at Inata
On that day, another blow was inflicted to the police, military and civilians in Inata, an area in the town of Djibo in northern Burkina. Before that, other localities had experienced the same kind of violence: Toeni in northwest Burkina, was not spared, the road from Dori to Essakane in the northeast was the site of massacres of the same type. Seven policemen were killed and the following day, two women farmers perished when a bomb exploded. Inata is located in the Sahelian part of the country and what is called the “Inata attack” occurred at 5:30 am and targeted a detachment of gendarmes (military). It claimed 53 lives, 49 gendarmes and four civilians. Since 2015, a total of 478 military personnel have been killed and 1.4 million people were displaced. In May of this year, statistics revealed that 2,244 schools closed down, and 304, 564 students had their education abruptly truncated. Since the beginning of this year, 17, 500 people were forced to leave Burkina and two years ago, a curfew was imposed in those areas most affected. That measure is still in place, since the number of attacks keeps increasing. Monday and Tuesday this week, opposition parties encouraged people to start protesting, asking for the resignation of President Roch Kaboré. But one does not need to be a political analyst to know that the protesters are not manipulated by opposition parties. People are simply tired of what has been going on for years. The Burkinabè are tired of counting their dead. Young military and police personnel are those who bear the brunt of the cruel Jihadist strikes. Generals and colonels are more interested in securing slots in peacekeeping missions which fetch them money, and the young recruits posted to the dangerous areas always get killed, leaving behind widows, children, brothers, sisters and comrades in arms.
Hungry and thirsty troops
The most deplorable aspect of the Inata attack is that the security forces posted there were simply hungry and thirsty. For two solid weeks, these gendarmes had not received any proper meals or sufficient water. President Kaboré will go down in history as the leader who sent soldiers to war and left them to their fate, with no food or water. That is what the average Burkinabè cannot fathom, and they are simply right. How can a government send troops to war, leave them to starve and with poor logistics which are simply and most often not provided? The anger of the masses in the country stems from the fact the hierarchy of the military and paramilitary units are incompetent, corrupt, woefully selfish and insensitive. President Kaboré has made innumerable speeches, promising a resolution of this problem but nothing has been done so far. Demonstrators are simply asking him to leave the scene because he is incompetent.
Confession of incapacity
Certain sources mention that Kaboré himself decided to resign, several times, since the attacks became too frequent and bloody. He confessed that he is not the right leader and the Mossi Chief, the most powerful traditional authority of the country, advised him to stay in power. Kaboré is a Mossi but should tribal affinity be put ahead of the peace, development and security of a whole nation? The only answer Kaboré gave to the discontented and grumbling citizens is that thorough investigations will be conducted and those behind this malfunction in the armed forces and security personnel will be brought to book. Those are the words of Commander in Chief of the Burkinabè armed forces. But such promises have been made so many times, and nothing concrete has followed. Many security analysts and political scientists tried to get to the bottom of this unfortunate horror that has befallen Burkina Faso; but one obvious reason is that the president has very poor leadership skills. He spent almost a quarter of a century operating in the shadow of former dictator, Compaoré, and he comes from money. Kaboré cannot feel the plight of the Burkinabè masses that wallow in poverty, despite their huge efforts daily. One sight that can make your heart bleed is when you see very determined men and women, going about their duties on the farms or cleaning the streets in Ouagadougou at dawn, or carrying their farm produce to the market on bicycles, while their socio-economic situations simply worsen. The wealth of the country is in the hands of a few insensitive individuals who are thoroughly corrupt. The country has descended so low, into the kingdom of injustice, incompetence, wealth fetishism and shameful vulnerability. Burkina is calling for real leadership.
Moussa Traoré is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.