A People’s Revolt in West Africa

Nov 3, 2014

What happened in Burkina Faso (the country formerly known as Upper Volta until 1984) at the end of October is a rarity in Africa. Not that a ruler tried to usurp more power. That’s standard operating practice for much of the continent. But when Blaise Compaore tried to change the constitution so that he could be elected president again (after 27 years in power), the people would not have it. They had been counting down the days until he would be compelled to leave office in November 2015. When he tried to move the goalposts, this time Africans told him Hell No.

A million people took to the streets (in a country of 17 million). He fled to the Ivory Coast. This is to be applauded but here’s where things get ticklish. We’ve seen this movie before.

When Africans find a way to rid themselves of one dictator, often there are not sufficient structures in place to ensure that another one doesn’t just step in and assume the position. There has been some confusion over which military leaders are actually running things for the moment. But the world—the international community—needs to assist this impoverished nation at this hour. Pressure must be applied to the military so that power is restored to a civilian leadership rapidly. Leaving the men with guns at the top is a recipe for more poverty, more inequality, and more corruption. Africa has enough of all of the above.