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The uprising of the masses in Burkina Faso proves Western arms and support doesn't guranatee unrestrained tyrannical control

'While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.'
Thomas Sankara

The recent uprising of the masses in Burkina Faso should be a lesson for those who think that being armed to teeth and supported by the western military powers means unrestrained tyrannical control of their countries.

Despite French military presence and political intolerance of opposition, the myth surrounding one of Africa’s long serving tyrants has been broken by the masses of working people showing what people’s power is.

France launched its supposed anti-terrorist programme making Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, one of its bases just in August 2014.

In 1976, Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani, Henri Zongo, Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaore formed the “Communist Officers’ Group” within the armed forces in Burkina Faso.

One of their members, Thomas Sankara, was appointed Secretary of State for Information in a military government in 1981 but resigned in 1982 for what he saw as the government’s anti-labour drift.

Sankara was again appointed Prime Minister in another military in January 1983 but dismissed in May 1983 because of revolutionary rhetoric which the French were uncomfortable with.

He was placed under house arrest together with Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani and Henri Zongo whilst Blaise Compaore was not touched.

There was an uprising which led to their release and a coup d’etat on 4 August 1983 and Thomas Sankara became the President, changing the country’s name from Haute Volta to Burkina Faso which means “Land of Incorruptible People”.

During the rule of Thomas Sankara, he led the country with a revolutionary orientation of self-reliance. He championed the campaign for the cancellation of the odious debt of developing nations, emphasised the enslavement character of foreign aid and the relationship with the International Monetary Fund as well as the World Bank.

He was an admirer of Fidel Castro-led revolution in Cuba. The government actively promoted land reform and agrarian self-sufficiency, prioritised education with a nation-wide literacy campaign and promoted public health. Sankara's commitment to women’s rights led to the government abolishing female genital mutilation, forced marriages and polygamy. Corrupt officials were tried and punished.

In 1987 Sankara fell out with trade unionists who had been his allies in the past.

On 15 October 1987, Thomas Sankara, together with twelve other colleagues of his were killed in a coup d’etat led by his former colleague, Blaise Compaore.

After the coup, Blaise Compaore appeared to be heading a triumvirate with his two other colleagues of the “Communist Officers’ Group” – Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani and Henri Zongo.

On 18 September 1989, Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani, Henri Zongo and two other officers were arrested, alleged to be plotting to overthrow the regime, and were executed.

It is worth pointing out that when members of the “Communist Officers’ Group” were placed under house arrest in 1983, Compaore was the only one among them who was free and now he has killed all his friends who were out under house arrest earlier.

When Sankara was overthrown, the usurpers tried to placate all forces alleging the breaking of relations with those who not long before were friends and in this case they listed trade unionists and militant workers as well as relations with neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire and former colonial power – France.

Gradually, Compaore reversed all the pro-people policies which were developed during the Thomas Sankara era.

Blaise Compaore became a major ally of USA and France in the West African sub-region.

He became a peace broker and facilitated peace, being the mediator in the Inter-Togolese Dialogue in 2006, in the crisis of Cote d’Ivoire in 2007 and between representatives of Malian coup d’etat and other regional leaders in 2012.

He is also known to have had a hand in the brutal wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone as such being like a double edged knife.

Compaore won elections in 1991 boycotted by the main opposition and in 1998 with a pitifully poor turn out at the polls.

In 2000, there was a constitutional amendment which reduced the term of office from 7 years to 5 years and also that the President could not serve more than two terms. Although, Compaore had served two terms the amendment did not apply retroactively so he stood for elections in 2005 and 2010 and was re-elected as President.

An attempt to amend the constitution to allow him to contest election for a fifth term has provoked the present uprising.

The masses' uprising started on 29 October 2014. On 30 October, tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets and burnt government buildings, including the city hall, the ruling Congress of Democracy and Progress (CDP) party headquarters, and parts of the National Assembly. The state radio and television station was also stormed. A number of people died in the violence as police and soldiers tried to stop the uprising.

Violent protest occurred in the second largest city Bobo Dioulasso and in the northern city of Ouahigouya.

The constitutional proposals were withdrawn, but Compaore declaring a state of emergency declared that he was going to stay in office and have a year transition in which he was prepared to consult with the opposition which he didn’t find necessary to do for 27 years. He might not have seen that it was too little and too late.

On 31 October, Compaore finally resigned and fled the country. Later, General Honore Traore, the army chief, declared that he was heading the transitional government but a counter announcement came from Lt Col Isaac Yacouba Zida, the second-in-command of the presidential guard, that instead he was the one heading the transitional government.

About 1,000 people gathered on Sunday, 2 November to demand a civilian and democratic transition a day after the military announced that the lieutenant colonel is in charge.

It is interesting to note that the French troops made no attempt to protect Compaore reinforcing the known reality that the west has permanent interests and not permanent friends.

The African Union chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has also called for a civilian-led transition.

There is the danger of the military hijacking the struggle for which the masses have fought and even died for. To prevent this will not depend on just Burkinabes but all progressive Africans and the masses as well as all internationalists.

Let us mobilise in solidarity with the masses in Burkina Faso so that they wouldn’t have toiled for the same forces who misruled the country together with Compaore to take over.

* Explo Nani-Kofi is Societal Affairs Analyst and Social Justice Practitioner. He was born in Ghana where he started his activist as a grass root organizer for popular democracy. He coordinated the Campaign Against Proxy War in Africa and the IMF-World Bank Wanted For Fraud Campaign. He is a member of Counterfire and Director of the Kilombo Centre for Civil Society and African Self-Determination, in Peki, Ghana and London, UK. This article was previously published by">Counterfire



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