Hello readers! Here is the 4th installment of “Hints of a Revolt,” (describing the recent unrest in Burkina Faso). You can read the first part here, the second part here and the third part here. I recommend a chronological read-through.
Please rest assured that everyone on the EWB team in Burkina has been and remains safe and sound.
As I laid in bed the night of the 15th, I think I heard a dozen rifle shots, at least three machine guns going off, protest chants in the streets, heavy military vehicles rolling by… Sweat dripping, heart pounding, I knew that this was now IT. Mutiny had spread to Bobo, and tomorrow, in the middle of my workshop, the presidential loyalists would be coming to put me away for instigating the revolution. No way I was leaving the house tomorrow! My barricading options seemed pretty decent: my room is separate from the main house but is made of bricks and cement, the window is already blocked off and my door is made of metal with a pretty sturdy deadbolt. Food would be an issue but thirst would undoubtedly come first. Still I had a fan to keep cool and my litre of water would last at least a day.
At 5 am, I tiptoed outside to go to the bathroom. It was pretty quiet… didn’t really feel like there had been a revolution overnight. And then, all of a sudden, I heard the familiar sound of a gunshot.
Except it was a door closing. Machine guns, except they were passing motorcycles. Protest chants, except it was the television, which had been left on late last night. And it occurred to me that at least one big truck carrying goods to and from the local market passes the house every night. No, the major challenge today would definitely not be avoiding the presidential guard, but rather giving a 4-hour workshop on less than two hours of sleep, being very careful to add the words “of positive, constructive, collaborative, NON-REVOLUTIONNARY change” every time I used the word “movement”.
The activity went well. No revolts took place and Bobo-Dioulasso was as calm as ever.
Still, that day, a new curfew was put in place over Ouagadougou starting at 7 pm. Violent protests involving different components of the military continued in several cities. Stray bullets were a cause of concern and several people were hurt. The Canadian embassy changed its advisory to “Avoid non-essential travel” to Burkina Faso and recommended staying indoors as much as possible. Two fellow EWB volunteers, Bernard and Marie-Claire were stuck in Ghana. EWB was ready to evacuate if the situation escalated. A number of people who shall remain nameless kept asking me when I was going to stop driving them crazy and coming home…
A few days later, a new prime minister, Luc Adolphe Tiao, was appointed, and the presidential guard gave a public apology during which they discouraged their peers from further destruction. Finally, a new government was created (reactions here). As many had deemed necessary, several old (and purportedly corrupt) heads were cut as the government fell from 38 to 29 ministers. The general consensus: it could have been a lot better (if it had been smaller and brought in more new blood), but it is a vast improvement – Blaise and his new prime minister are showing signs of wanting to truly address the crisis Burkina Faso is facing. Since then, the military wages have been increased in response to demands, reimbursing the merchants has been made a top priority and dialogue has been opened with the students. Things are looking up.
To be concluded…