On October 31st the world has taken notice of an important historic event on the African continent: the people of the west African nation of Burkina Faso are free from one of Africa’s atrocious dictators. This liberation ends 28 years of oppression.
An African proverb (popular in the AFJN office) says: “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” The popular outrage to stop Mr. Blaise Compaore from changing the constitution to enable him to run for another term in November 2015 is what pushed the nation to the edge after years of discontent. In a coordinated unit people rose up against Mr. Compaore, his family and a few elites who ruled with him.
Mr. Compaore was perceived to be influential in most capitals beyond West Africa and was an ally of the US and most importantly France both of which have military presences in Burkina Faso. In a press release on October 28, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, reminded the deposed president of Burkina Faso that: “The African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance explicitly rejects constitutional changes in order to maintain power for the benefit of the incumbent.”
Unfortunately, the people paid an unnecessarily high cost to impeach Burkina Faso’s strongman: loss of many lives, treasures like national buildings and important documents, and private property which was looted.
On October 30th people came from far and near to the capital Ouagadougou to say enough is enough. This was the day the president’s majority in parliament was scheduled to vote on the constitutional amendment to article 37 which limits the presidential term to two mandates
During the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington, DC from August 4-6, 2014, which brought together many African Heads of State, Africa Faith & Justice Network (in partnership with TASSC, the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition) held a rally near the US Department of State to clearly and loudly denounce Africa’s constitutional dictators, past and present, who have amended presidential term limits in the people’s constitutions to accommodate their appetite for power beyond their legal term. Furthermore, AFJN and TASSC called the world’s attention to the atrocities, namely torture and assassinations, committed by these leaders against those who “elect” them. Amending constitutions to extend presidential term limits threaten peace, political stability, and development in Africa, particularly in the Great Lakes Region.
Additionally, a lack of peaceful transfers of power through elections is one cause of Africa’s democracy deficit. On a long list of life-term African presidents, Burkina Faso’s deposed President Blaise Compare was mentioned during the AFJN-TASSC demonstration in Washington.
By Jacques Bahati