By The Dawn News / February 20, 2018
Le Balai Citoyen which means “the citizen broom” in English is a civil society movement founded on August 25, 2013 with “The vision of ‘making Burkina Faso a fair and honest society in a democratic state of law’ and with the mission to ‘Constitute a force of proposals and pressure for social change through citizen engagement’’. The Dawn News spoke with members of this organization to hear more about the work they are engaging in at Balai Citoyen, the current political context in Burkina Faso and their plan for this year.
1) What does Balai Citoyen do?
Balai Citoyen is a civil society movement created on August the 25th of 2013 that seeks to encourage the responsible and conscious involvement of the population in the management of public affairs, hold the rulers of the country accountable to the people and ensuring democratic change.
One of the central projects of Balai Citoyen is permanent citizen watch of the government, and we implement several projects across the country as well, including a project that mobilizes young people on the accountability of elected officials and another that relies on dialogue between defense and security forces with communities in the country in certain localities at risk of criminality or conflict.
The Balai Citoyen also mobilizes and organizes public conferences on various topics of popular interest, particularly on governance, security, the theft of people on land at both the urban and rural levels.
2) What is the current political climate like in Burkina Faso?
In Burkina Faso, the political climate is largely marked by the traditional play of political actors (opposition versus majority) against the backdrop of social crises. On one side, the party in power and its allies who defend and extol the presidential program, and, on the other side, the political opposition which fights the same program by emphasizing the practices that affect the good governance of the country.
Between these jousts of politicians, the people face the hardships of the difficult realities of life characterized mainly by: the very low income of the population, the lack of employment for young people, an inadequate and poor offer of professional training, and an obsolete educational system…
What seems to be the only point of agreement between the political actors is the draft constitution that will establish the 5th republic after its adoption by Parliament or by a referendum. It is the result of consensus among all social components of the nation.
On the social front, there was an important strike in the education sector. The strike, which disrupted teaching and the school calendar, lasted almost three months. Striking teachers demanded, among other things, the improvement of their living and working conditions and the establishment of a quality schools with quality infrastructure for the children of all people.
With regards to the security issue, since 2015 there has been a substantial increase in attacks by terrorist groups and drug traffickers who are located mainly in the north of the country.
In their efforts to apprehend or neutralize terrorists, the security and defense forces have committed abuses sometimes resulting in the death of innocent people. These blunders are never mentioned nor recognized by the authorities which could hinder the chances of collaboration between the population and the security forces to confront the incursion of terrorist groups.
In addition, some regions of the country are experiencing the emergence of a new phenomenon of securing people and their property. This phenomenon is called “Koglweogo” (guardians of the bush in national language). This is a form of self-organization of rural populations to deal with banditry (armed robberies, gang rapes in rural concessions …) that ravages these areas. These self-defense organizations were born because of the shortcomings of the state and work to ensure the security of people and their property in these areas.
To raise the profile of some of their successes by the communities from which they come, their actions often encroach on the prerogatives of the state. Some of their actions also seriously violate human rights (physical abuse, public humiliation of suspected, conflicts with populations, killing).
Finally, the Balai Citoyen is worried about the slowness of the adoption of the new constitution which was supposed to work through the rupture in the country after the fall of the dictator Blaise COMPAORE. Despite that most of the presidential candidates in 2015, including the current president Rock Marc Christian KABORE, promised the adoption of the new constitution in the first months of their mandate and the vote of the Burkinabe diaspora from 2020, the government has yet to confirm about the vote of Burkinabe from abroad nor have they confirmed the referendum for the adoption of the new constitution which would mark the transition to the 5th Republic.
3) How is Burkina Faso affected by the regional tendencies of the expansion of terrorist groups and by the subsequent military interventions and the presence of imperialist armies like those of the USA and France?
Burkina Faso is badly affected by the terrorist attacks in the north of the country and in Ouagadougou the capital especially the successive attacks of the café-restaurant Capuccino and Splendid Hotel on January 15, 2016, the attacks of the Cafe Istanbul on August 13, 2017 have strongly bereaved the people of Burkina Faso. These attacks revealed the limits of our security system but also the permanence of the terrorist peril and the ability of this evil to strike the heart of the country far from their territory.
In recent years, the presence of foreign armed forces on Burkinabe territory has been confirmed. This presence breaks with a political tradition practiced since the independence of the country in 1960 that did not allow foreign soldiers to stay on the national territory. Now there has been noted presence of French and American military in the northern part of the country.
In January 2012, following the invasion of northern Mali by narco-jihadist fighters, France took the opportunity to strengthen its military presence in Burkina by setting up operational rear bases of its special forces. The international military intervention, initiated by France in 2013, is currently under the name Operation Barkhane. This French force mobilized about 4,000 men in an expanded theater of operations to four other Sahelian countries: Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad. In Mali, it coexists with the 12,000 men of the Minusma, the UN mission. Despite all these operations, like Serval in 2013-2014 and Barkhane which began in 2014 and continues today, terrorist attacks persist in the Sahel Saharan belt.
The Balai Citoyen wonders about the effectiveness of these military devices because the terrorist acts have not decreased. On the other hand, serious actions by French soldiers have been recorded. French soldiers in a swimming pool in Ouagadougou touched young girls and filmed these obscenities. Once the facts were revealed, they were extracted manu militari for supposedly being prosecuted by the justice of their home country, France. This evasion of Burkinabé justice, organized by France, shocked the national opinion. Similar acts of French soldiers have been reported and reported in other countries of the continent.
Presently, there is another operation called “G5 Sahel” that France is preparing to launch in March 2018 with the same countries of the Sahel-Saharan band. Will it be able to stem terrorism in the zone? Given the mixed results of the scale and robustness of previous operations, the Balai Citoyen reserves any prognosis!
The United States, meanwhile, say that they consider Burkina Faso as a strategic military ally, in their program against terrorism in the Sahel. It took for example the death on 4 October 2017 of four “green berets” US Special Forces in Niger for African public opinion to see the scale of US military operations on the continent. These military maneuvers were conducted in secret for a long time.
4) What are the actions of the Balai Citoyen in this sense?
As a citizen watch movement, the Balai Citoyen challenges the authorities about the country’s security failures. It denounces the lax attitude, the corruption, the lack of technical and logistic coordination for the soldiers engaged in the theater of the military operations. It challenges the hierarchy of the military and the political authorities on the need to establish a climate of confidence and trust between the populations of the zones of confrontation and the defense and security forces. It disapproves of the presence of military forces of the Western powers on national territory. It also calls on the government to report abuses of suspected people in these northern areas.
5) What does Balai Citoyen hope to achieve in 2018?
In 2018, the Balai Citoyen continues its citizen watch by organizing democratic spaces with citizen dialogues on transparency in the management of plots of land and subdivisions, on the action of the government through the “Présimètre” platform.
It also will prioritize the political education and training of its members as well as development and expansion of the movement to several localities of the country.
Balai Citoyen is also part of a dynamic creation of a Pan-African platform of African people’s movements.
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