As the dramatic scenes of public protests have given way to political negotiations of the terms of a transition towards new elections in Burkina Faso, the initial reports on events unfolding hour by hour are gradually being replaced by reflections on the overall implications of the overthrow of Blaise Compaoré. Questions are now being asked about the possible spill-over effects of the popular uprising – the possibility of an “African spring”, mirroring the wave of uprisings in Northern Africa in 2011. We might also begin to ask more anthropological questions of the potential for more enduring social and political change in Burkina Faso. Which changes in terms of political participation can the uprising be expected to have? Which actors were the driving forces for the public protests that brought Compaoré’s reign to an end, and are they included in the current negotiations? What has the monopolisation of power by the CDP at the national level meant for ordinary citizens? This brief text suggests some possible answers. Continue reading
The 117 emergency call is placed to the Ebola response unit. Within the hour, a medical convoy descends on the community from which the call came, complete with a military escort. Normally, few would have expressed any concern or interest at rumours of Mammy Marah’s fever spike but these are not normal times. The outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has left many on edge and highly suspicious of the manifestation of any physical symptoms in neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances. The intimidating presence of the Ebola response unit has been cited as one of the myriad reasons for the rising body count accrued by the disease, as the sight of armed men triggers the instinct of family members to “protect” their Ebola infected relatives. Other explanations go that the Ebola response unit’s armed escort is for their protection, as initial reactions to their presence often turned violent. This resistance to Ebola health workers has been as much an obstacle to the fight against the disease as false alarms raised by the overzealous or mean spirited.
Posted in Ebola
Tagged Sierra Leone
The last very dramatic days has led to a particularly complicated, and yet, fascinating political process of society and change in Burkina Faso. Even though the popular uprising last week did not come as a surprise for observers of Burkinabe politics, the rapidity of the ending of the 27 years of reign of Blaise Compaoré was unexpected. After years of attempts by Compaoré and his regime to find ways of changing Paragraph 37 of the Constitution, the Burkinabe government finally crossed the Rubicon at its extraordinary council meeting on 21 October 2014 when it took the decision to send the proposed Bill to the National Assembly. This was the ultimate decision that would definitely open for a change of Paragraph 37 and, in practice, allow Compaoré another term, and possibly even up to 15 years more in power. That decision became “a pill too difficult to swallow” (une pilule trop difficile à avaler) for the Burkinabe. Continue reading
Is this a people’s revolution, or a coup d’état? The uncertain definition of recent events in Burkina Faso, after former president Blaise Compaoré resigned and the army announced they would take control of a transitional phase and suspend the constitution, is not only haunting international press but also lingering in the internal debate. These are confusing days. Politicians from the opposition have stated that “the army has confiscated our revolution” and asked people to demonstrate in order to put pressure on the military forces, asking for a civil transition toward the next elections. On the opposite side, representatives of Balai Citoyen (“the civic broom”, a youth movement created about one year ago and represented publicly by local well-known artists like reggaeman Sams’k Le Jah or rapper/singer Smockey), the main actor in the organization of recent demonstrations, on the opposite side, have confirmed for the moment their cautious support to the idea of the army managing the transition, and suspect the opposition parties of trying to appropriate a mass movement that they have not created in the first place. Indeed, the opposition parties have been quite hesitant in questioning Compaoré’s regime, at least until recently.
The conflict that broke out in Northern Mali in January 2012 delayed yet again a long awaited return to the place where I had undertaken fieldwork, and long before that, spent one whole year of my adolescence. While my parents worked for a Norwegian NGO, I lived for one year in the then drought-stricken town of Gossi making friends that were now eagerly awaiting my return. More than one year after the French intervention drove the Islamists back to the fringes of Northern Mali, it was finally considered safe for me to set out towards Gossi. That is, my best friend initially very much wanted me to come, but was soon discouraged by his father and younger brother, who no longer lived in Northern Mali, but in the capital Bamako. The younger brother, a captain in the National Guard, frequently went to North Africa on training missions, and during the conflict was sent there by the military authorities to keep him out of harm’s way when he, as a Malian Arab, risked being conflated with the rebels, who were predominantly Tuareg. In fact, his entire family, whether in Northern or Southern Mali, fled to Burkina Faso during the conflict. Visibly shaken by his own experiences and by what had befallen others, the father urged me not to go lest I be abducted. These days, he said, conflicts between different communities had created so much bad blood that people might designate a person connected to a rival group as a potential kidnap victim only for the sake of inflicting harm upon them. Continue reading
In the limited attention the international media has paid to Liberian, Sierra Leonean and Guinean people’s experiences and thoughts on Ebola an interesting metaphor has frequently come up – that of comparing Ebola to war.
“The Ebola outbreak has been like someone firing live bullets” – Emmett P Chea, Liberia (http://www.bbc.com/news/29331061). “Just imagine living somewhere where you are being invisibly terrorized” – Lucy Sherman, Liberian in the US (http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/hillsborough-regional-news/ebola-worries-from-home-follow-ut-student)
This has been in the context of either comparing the virus to war generally, as above, or comparing it specifically to the civil wars that Liberians and Sierra Leoneans have endured. Continue reading
Posted in Ebola