This is the final part of “Hints of a Revolt”, an entry describing the recent unrest in Burkina Faso. You can start reading the entry here or read the previous part here. I recommend 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.
Protests haven’t stopped outright. About two weeks ago, following in the footsteps of their military brethren, the police realized that they could get money by shooting their guns. It seems to have worked. In the meantime, students are still demanding more transparency in the death of Justin Zongo, but it is generally believed that it is only some opportunistic troublemakers (probably not even students anymore) that are still being destructive, and only on a small scale at that. Lastly, at the end of April, the opposition parties made a tremendous fuss about a peaceful protest intended to “take every measure necessary to demand the immediate departure of the president.” It brought together 1000 people and did little more than garner the scorn of Burkinabe internet commenters. The general feeling is that the opposition is being opportunistic rather than constructive, taking advantage of a crisis to demand something that will set the country further back rather than help it in the current climate. People aren’t too happy with Blaise, but they trust the opposition even less.
It seems like the unrest, so to speak, has temporarily died down. However, it is evident that the crisis lives on. A coalition exists, “La coalition contre la vie chère,” defending the interests of government employees from all walks of life. In Burkina, the government is practically the only formal employer and there are no big businesses to speak of, so this coalition represents pretty much everybody who has a job in the formal sector. Its claim: life in Burkina is too expensive, salaries are too low. It’s true.
My host father says the government’s job is simple: just stop keeping the money for yourselves, raise salaries and control the cost of living. It seems as though most people repeat the same slogan. It’s as easy as that.
Sitting on the fence between Burkina and the developed world in front of my computer, two things appear obvious to me (though they may both be wrong):
The first is that they are right in denouncing a certain measure of corruption, in claiming that money tends to stay at the top and is not very well spent.
The second is that this magical money they’re talking about just isn’t there, at least not in the amounts they believe it to be. This oh-so-simple job of just giving this miraculous wealth to the deserving people, appears grounded in an intractable belief that money is generated from thin air.
From beginning to end, the events of the last two months have convinced me more than ever that encouraging entrepreneurship, reinforcing the structures which can bring it about, and supporting the tools that can help develop it, are objectives that directly address one of the most fundamental causes of poverty in Burkina Faso. More generally, my belief that investing in a new kind of pro-active leadership is essential to Burkina’s development has been cemented. Even if working on it keeps me up on nights like April 15th, it’s also what gets me up in the morning.
So, sorry to those who think recent events are reason for me to come home – I love you and truly appreciate your thoughts and concern…
… but things are just getting good.
What do you think?