Monday, March 26, 2007

I didn’t update as promised because too much has been going on. The mask festival will have to wait. Today’s news is as follows:
Though A. went to school on Friday, I got a call from the school at about 10am to come get her. She was very unwell, short of breath and having chest pains. Luckily, I was not far from the school and got there quickly. I drove her to the medical clinic where we spent about three hours. She soon felt better, but the MD has no clue why her meds are suddenly not working. We’ll get the results of her blood work today at 1pm. Hopefully, they will provide an answer, or at least a clue.
She has been feeling pretty well today, just one short, non-painful incident of tachycardia this morning.

Just over a week ago, I was teaching KT (French Catholic sunday school) and one of the other teachers warned us all to avoid going home through the center of town. There were demonstrations at the police commissariat. The rumor was that someone had been beheaded?????!!!! Needless to say, we took the long way home. I later got the real story from JP and the details have been coming out in the media over the course of this last week. Today, I bought one of the best local newspapers “L’Evenement”.
To keep you up on the latest news, here’s a rough translation of part of one of the articles:

Maybe it is time to face reality. From September 2006 to March 16, 2007, three big events happened that should open our eyes. First of all was the ‘Helmet Rebellion’ of September. It was a determined, yet spontaneous reaction of a certain class of Ouagadougou society against requiring motor scooter riders to wear helmets. The people went up against the police with rocks and bitterness. This reaction was so unexpected and so strong that the authorities had to back up. The law was not repealed, but it’s application is not in effect.
Next, there was the military mutiny of last December. For two days, young soldiers ruled over all of Ouaga. They violently reacted against anything even symbolizing the police force. They broke prisoners out of prison, They disobeyed direct orders and forced the President of Burkina to cancel two major international summit meetings that would have crowned him the de facto president of then CEDEAO and the UEMOA (NB: That’s the West African Monetary Union. A big deal )
Here again, the reaction was not in proportion to the triggering incident. The young soldiers reacted to get revenge for an offence, real or imagined, of some members of the CRS (Riot Police)
The final event is, of course, the horrible events of the 16 and 17 of March. There was a violent and determined popular reaction that arose suddenly at the discovery of two mutilated and dismembered corpses. This event unleashed a violent reaction from our citizen, an expression of their unwillingness to to put up with current conditions. People have absolutely no confidence in institutions here, which is why the demonstrators attacked the central police station, demanding that the accused murderers be turned over to the crowd for justice to be served to their satisfaction.
One aspect of all this that struck those who have seen images of the demonstration is the hatred with which people attacked and destroyed the Kundé Bars in Ouaga. All the branches of the popular Ouaga nightspot were levelled because of rumors that one of the accused killers was part-owner of the successful business.

This violence certainly has causes and tells us three important things about the political climate here.
There is a deep desperation in a large proportion of our population. For these people, who no longer believe in this system or in their country, the desire is to do to everything what was done to the Kundé Bars. They want to destroy everything and perhaps oblige the elites to rebuild Burkina in a better, more fair way. When people no longer expect even one good thing from the status quo, things get dangerous.
There is a total lack of confidence in the justice system. The military mutiny and the events of this month highlight the lack of trust in justice by the extremity of the acts committed.
And finally, we see that the people reject everything that the Kundé Bars represent. Sudden wealth that comes from very unclear sources. In the ‘Helmet Rebellion’ we already saw bthe people refuse to contribute to the enrichment of already wealth people that stood to make a lot of money from enforced helmet sales. The young soldiers were also rejecting the elites- those with money and power that have lost touch with the harsh realities and hardships of life in the barracks in the Burkinbe military.
Before any social explosion, there are signs that are often not noticed or are minimalized. But these events show everybody that eats at least two good meals a day that they are in danger. They are now confronted with millions of their citizens that no longer have any hope for the future.”

Again, this article was in one of the top Burkina papers, not their version of “The National Enquirer”. This is real.
More details on the murders: Two men were taken by one Mr. Modibo Maiga to go see a used truck for sale. They got into his car and were never seen alive again. Their dismembered bodies were discovered, piece by piece the 15 of March. They had been hit by a truck, shot and dismembered. Very, um, thourough. The heads were found a day later, near one of the reservoirs not far from our house. Blood was found on Maiga’s truck. Then witnesses came forward saying they had seen him do it, with the help of two accomplices. All three men are now in jail awaiting trial.
Now, the police very quickly released the various body parts for burial, but were slow to release the heads. In fact, one of the major demands of the rioters that attacked the police station was that the heads be given to the families ASAP. “ The murdered men were both of the Bissa ethnic group and their tradition demands that they be buried with their heads.” was what the paper had to say on the matter.

And what was really behind the nightclubs being destroyed? Well, many people here believe that prosperity can be bought with “wack”: black magic, often involving human sacrifice. The perception was that this Maiga was one of the owners of this very prosperous business and the success of it was due to human sacrifices. “Coupure de tête” (Cutting off the head) is a hallmark of these “ceremonies”. Even the Burkinabé president’s name has been linked to a killing- the murder of an albino man. ……….
Most of the time, Burkina seems so calm. So normal. Then, all of the sudden, things go very, very wrong. I wonder if the people really are preparing a revolution. … They certainly need one. The corruption of the elites is so blatant. And economic opportunities for the poor are rare to non-existent.
BTW, yesterday I noticed a worker filling in the last few bullet holes in the Police Headquarters downtown. In December, the soldiers had shot hundreds of rounds into the building. It was completely pockmarked on all sides. They only just now have got all the windows replaced and holes filled in. Luckily, the average Ouagalais doesn't have access to firearms. Otherwise I don't think the place would still be standing.

1 comment:

sabrinainouaga said...

Dear Burkinamom,
I just want to thank you for your interessting,authentic posts. I know Burkina from traveling. In August I will start working at ISO as a teacher. So I try to prepare myself for my stay and I found out that your Blog is the best way to get know life in Ouaga. You helped me already a lot to understand how things are going on there. I've got a Blog too, but it's written in German (I'm Swiss). If you know some words go and check it out.
Go on writing!