On Friday 20 June 2021, the Burkinabè took to the streets to express their anger and disappointment over the government’s handling of recurrent terrorist attacks on the country. The protesters accuse the authorities in charge of their security of “drinking their beer” while terrorists continue to hit civilians and military targets with renewed vigour. This seeming inability to curb terrorist attacks is being received with utter resignation in some quarters. Media reports show that civil servants and those who can afford to “unwind” after a long days’ work now “drown their sorrows in beer”. People now take solace in drinking to forget their problems.
From support to hatred
In recent weeks, intensified terrorist attacks have displaced many communities while the security agents seem to be overrun by terrorists in the northern part of the country. Consequently, the citizens are tired of what they call the incompetence and indifference of the government. The paradox is that, indeed, a sudden change has occurred in the behaviour of these citizens. Some months ago, they enthusiastically donated money to the military as a show of support in the anti-terrorist fight. In recent weeks, however, demonstrations have become a common occurrence. People are demanding peace and tranquility in order to return to their villages and homes. A woman who was part of the demonstrators in Kaya, 100 kilometers North East of Ouagadougou, told the press that “the problem is not to make sure we have food to eat. Even if all the gold of the whole world were given to us today that would not please us because what we want is to be able to return to our various homes and live in peace.”
On the streets of Ouagadougou and other major cities, women holding broomsticks and men with red wrist bands march with placards which suggest that those at the head of affairs know that the Burkinabè are fed up with the constant threat on their lives and properties. Several placards declare: “security is our right, those who cannot guarantee it should resign”, “We are tired of counting the dead and wounded”, “We are tired of losing our homes and being displaced”.
Prior to these recent protests, there have been isolated calls from individuals and groups for the resignation of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence. However, the government has always discarded these calls as politically motivated since they were coming, in most cases, from members of the opposition parties. In fact, the party in power retorted that opposition parties cannot dictate who is appointed as minister. The current protest is, however, massive and certain government institutions were vandalized, as in the case of the Titao local government offices, about 100 kilometers North of Ouagadougou. This has left many asking what will make the government take this problem seriously? Are they waiting for people to march onto the presidency at Kosyman, Ouagadougou, and ask the first gentleman of Burkina Faso to give up power?
Once, a big blow to the terrorists
In recent days, the terrorists have been brazen in their attacks. On 10 June 2021 the military launched an offensive against the terrorists, code named Operation Taanli. Many were decimated and the populace enjoyed relative peace, only for the terrorists to regroup. People are now asking for a repeat of Operation Taanli. The operation proved to be very effective because it was a joint effort by the Burkinabè army and their counterparts from Niger. It was carried out on a vast terrain between the border of Burkina and Niger, the spot from which the terrorists launch most of their attacks. Hundreds of terrorists were neutralized and several guns and explosives were seized. Thus, the call for such an offensive against the terrorists is born out of the need for the restoration of peace and security, effective governance and many other things that the ordinary citizen needs for basic survival.
Internal conflicts add to people’s headache
A common misunderstanding that often degenerate into deadly conflict is the clash between farmers and herders. These historic “enemies” have often clashed over grazing space. As if the terror created by some groups of people who are determined to undermine the peace and stability of the country was not enough, these two groups are always re-reigniting conflicts that are thought to be over. For example, On 20 June 2021 the Tribunal of Bobo Dioulasso, the economic hub of the nation, began deliberating on a case related to events that had taken place in 2018. Some young farmers convicted for killing cattle were released from jail to the displeasure of the herders. Meanwhile, some cattle were caged by the local authorities because they were “roaming” in the open and destroying crops. Some of the cows were pregnant. To make matters worse, they lost their calves while corralled. The outcome of the judgment is yet to be known, but the polity is already heated. What the nation needs now is a united front to face its common enemy instead of internal clashes at this moment.
Moussa Traoré is a senior lecturer at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.