But what kind of Africa are we talking about exactly? An Africa, where elected leaders govern their countries for the duration of their mandate and then retire peacefully at the end of their term. An Africa of good governance, where those elected do not focus their time and energy on maintaining power, but rather on working for the prosperity of their people. The kind of Africa that so many are yearning for today, because the political stability of the continent is an essential condition for its economic development.
The 30th October 2014- an important day
For several weeks now observers and analysts have been discussing upcoming elections, in particular in those countries where the presidents are nearing the end of their final term in office, but where it is becoming clear that they will try to maintain power. These countries are: Burkina Faso (2015), Burundi (2015), Congo (2016), DRC (2016) and Rwanda (2017). Each country has its own unique history and context but it’s clear that they are all watching each other’s situations closely and future developments in one country will inspire and/or influence what happens in the others. It is for this reason that what is currently happening in Burkina Faso is very important for the rest of Africa. Today’s striking images have already been seen all over the continent.
At the moment it is difficult, in fact impossible, to predict what will happen next in Burkina Faso. The President Blaise Compaoré, regarded until yesterday evening as a skilled strategist, has been in power for the last 27 years. Will he now be overthrown or will he remain in office until the end of his term in November 2015? The army, which appears to sympathise with the people, has just announced emergency measures, including the dissolution of parliament and formation of a 12 month transitional government. Will the opposition parties, who have played their role so perfectly in the last few months, insist on the departure of the weakened president during forthcoming negotiations? And what about France, which has just leaked a letter written by President Hollande to his counterpart in Burkina Faso? Will it abandon its old ally? The situation is still very confused.
What is clear though, is that Thursday 30th October is already an important day for Burkina Faso and for the emergence of this aformentioned new Africa. By marching on the parliament and the presidency just hours before the modification of the constitution, the people of Burkina Faso have risen up against an attempt to confiscate power by one man and his group of supporters. They have equally demonstrated their thirst for the creation of strong institutions, their yearning for the upholding of the law and their desire for democracy. It’s a lesson, an example for the other people of the continent. I would also like to take this opportunity to salute the courage of the thousands of Burkinabe who have poured out onto the streets to show their desire for change, but also to pay my respects to those who have lost their lives during this historic day.
The lessons of 30th October 2014
It is much too early to learn any long-term lessons from current events, all the more so since their magnitude has taken almost everyone by surprise. However, we can read and interpret certain messages sent to different groups by the people of Burkina Faso, who it seems were underestimated by some of their leaders.
Firstly to the people of Africa, the Burkinabe have shown that we must not be cowed by any forms of intimidation and, even at the risk of the greatest sacrifice, stand up against all attempts to remove power from the people. Courage is therefore the watchword.
Next, to the African leaders who haven’t yet grasped this concept, the people of Burkina Faso ask that the current constitutions and their laws are respected in order to facilitate political stability. Contrary to what some say, it is not providential “strong men” who prevent serious political crises but the respect of those democratic rules established by consensus.
Finally, to Africa’s partners, the Burkinabe who came out onto the streets today are issuing a demand for coherence. You cannot insist that certain leaders leave at the end of their final term, whilst at the same time accepting that others stay in power. As far as Burkina Faso is concerned, many people will be tempted to use the security considerations of the region to justify these double standards. To those people I would like to ask just one question: Do you think that West Africa will sink because President Blaise Compaoré is no longer in residence at the Kosyam Palace? Let’s replace the “strong men” with strong institutions and mechanisms which will guarantee the stability of the continent.
The three messages that the “men of integrity” are sending to us are therefore, courage, respect and coherence.