Monday, January 14, 2008

Ouaga was calm this weekend. The Lebanese shops usually open on Sunday were all closed and I think that rather short-circuited any plans for “retaliation”. Also, it was announced last night that Damin was finally in police custody. He arrived back in Ouaga this morning at 4am and he’s in prison here now, awaiting trial.

Actually, Burkina is a relatively safe, calm country. It’s a bit more perilous than living in, say, Michigan, but a good deal safer than Kenya. I have been keeping up on the situation there through a very interesting blog by a fellow expat mom. I discovered it by chance browsing through a directory and was charmed by the earnest, literate style and the exotic details of life in Kenya. Then, when the election troubles started, it turned out to be a fascinating source of news about the latest developments. Don’t like her better than me, ok?

Even Burkina’s nearest neighbours are far more troubled than we are. Niger is a major source of bad news these days. I previously mentioned the case of Moussa Kaka, the director of Radio Saraouniya and a correspondent for Radio France International and Reporters without Borders. He has been tirelessly committed to fair reporting in his country. His efforts to tell the story of elements unhappy with the current government, the Tuareg rebels ( AKA the Nigerien People’s Movement for Justice or MNJ ) landed him in trouble . His contact with them by telephone has led the government to accuse him of “complicity in a plot against the authority of the State”. This charge carries the death penalty. He was thrown in to prison on Sept 20 and is still there. On October 9, 2007, Ibrahim Diallo, director of Radio Aïr and the newspaper Aîr Info, was thrown into jail up in Agadez, Niger. He is still there and has had no trial yet. He is accused of “criminal association. He, too, dared cover the story of the MNJ rebellion. Ready for yet more exciting news about Niger? On December 17, 2007, two French journalists were arrested for ignoring the ban on travelling to northern Niger, the main rebel stronghold. They are accused of spying, which carries the death penalty. They are still in prison. All in all, there is incredible pressure on journalists not to report on the rebellion at all. They are brutally imprisoned and also frequently threatened, according to this article.
Another radio journalist was killed on January 8, 2008, when he drove his car over an anti-tank mine placed in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Niamey. Abdou Mahamane was the head of Radio R&M and the government is blaming his death on the rebels. But is it true? Here’s part of an article on a Tuareg-oriented news site:

“The government blamed Tuareg rebels who launched an uprising last February to demand greater autonomy for their homelands in the barren, uranium-rich north. The insurgents have mainly targeted army patrols and remote garrisons in the Sahara.
"This attack can only be the work of armed bandits in the north who are trying to establish a campaign of urban terrorism because they are incapable of fighting a conventional war in the region where they launched it," Communication Minister Mohamed Ben Omar said in a communique broadcast on state radio.
The rebel Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), which has killed at least 49 soldiers since launching its revolt last year, vehemently denied responsibility for laying the mines, instead accusing the authorities of trying to tarnish its image.
"This regime which has lost any sense of direction is laying mines everywhere it needs to in order to accuse the fighters for justice, who condemn the use of mines particularly against citizens," the MNJ said on its Web site.”

Despite the problems of Burkina, we don’t have anyone laying landmines around Ouaga and we don’t have any journalists in prison facing the death penalty. Yay for us!
If you want to send a message of support to Kaka ( even in English!), here’s the address: The messages in this mailbox are being used to show that there is international demand that he be released.


Lilla Blanka said...

Somehow I ended up here , and I must say that your blog caught my interest immediately!...It must have been quite a change to move to Africa. I look at the pictures and realize that your children have grown up there, what an incredible experience for them to have lived in Africa. I don´t even know where Burkina Faso is..!
I´m going to bookmark your page so I can come back and read some more later on :)
Take care
Mia From Sweden

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Beth, for being one of the few people writing in English about the Niger situation. But hey, it's all fixed, no? The two French journalists who were detained--completely horribly--have been let out on bail. And that's all that matters, right? Of course, their local chauffeur remains in jail on serious charges; and Moussa Kaka, the radio ournalist in Niamey, remains in jail; and Diallo, the writer for the Air magazine, is still jailed in Agadez; all on the same b.s. charges of helping the rebellion by just doing their job.

Let's hope that the same pressure that freed the French reporters is brought to bear to show the unjust treatment of their local counterparts. I'd love to believe we've moved beyond colonialism far enough to get there. Yeah, right...