Hi everyone! For those following closely, I’m really sorry, I thought I’d make it to the end of the “Hints of a Revolt” entry in 3 parts, but it looks like it’ll be 2 more (shorter, bite-sized) parts + an epilogue. Hope you still enjoy this format (and please let me know if you don’t). I’ll make up for it by posting them quickly: the next parts will be up by Thursday and by next Monday at the latest respectively. Along with this post, I’ll see if I can share a funny little video to lighten the mood.
In any case, here is the third part of “Hints of a Revolt”, an entry describing the recent unrest in Burkina Faso. You can read the first part here and the second part here. If you haven’t read the first two parts, it is highly recommended that you follow them chronologically before starting this one. Please rest assured that everyone on the EWB team in Burkina has been and remains safe and sound.
As of March 30th, the Centre Agricole Polyvalent de Matourkou (CAP/M, or what I often refer to as the agricultural college) was closed for a 45-day-vacation. The centre follows what might seem to Canadians like an odd holiday schedule, with major vacations being split into two: 45 days April-May, and then a month in the fall.
As luck would have it, the student strikes had just ended, meaning that the polytechnic university (my other partner) was back in action. So, on to l’Institut du Développement Rural (IDR, basically the Rural/Agriculture-Engineering faculty of the university). My job description at the university is pretty similar to the college, with leadership development being my highest priority. After a planning meeting with the assistant director, my first leadership seminar/workshop was scheduled for Saturday, April 16th.
Leadership in Burkina Faso (and I suspect, much of Africa) is mostly perceived as being limited to those in control. There are basically two types of visible leaders in the public arena: political ones, who (apparently) call the shots, and union-type (syndicats) leaders, who ask for better conditions and more money from the political ones. Hierarchy, both traditionally and now systematically, is very important. Unless you can work your way up the ranks and be a major decision-maker (and there is a very limited number of ways in which you can do this, most of them having nothing to do with leadership), you’re not considered a leader.
So, the message of the workshop is really simple:
- Anyone can be a leader.
- Leadership is about committing to creating positive change and doing it, not ordering people around. How you do it is up to you.
- No more complaining; start creating – commit now and create a movement of positive change.
In effect, it’s putting into practice my favourite quote, which sits permanently on the right-hand-menu of this blog.
Two nights before the scheduled date for the workshop, mutiny struck again, hard. The president’s own guard shooting in the air wildly. The rest of the military following suit: stores looted, stalls destroyed, millions of dollars in damages, some rumors later went so far as to say women raped… Realizing the magnitude of the crisis, President Compaoré dissolves the government and names a new chief of the armed forces. … Wasn’t dissolving the government one of the first things that happened in Egypt?
Two months earlier I’d been told at the college: “Careful with meeting the students on your own, we don’t want to start any movements.” At present, the university students were coming out of a month-long strike that had on many occasions turned destructive or even violent in other cities. Their buddies in Koudougou were burning down buildings. The military was running amok. There was no government. And I’m telling them “Anyone can be a leader; start a movement.”
I was a bit nervous.
To be continued…