Plus rien ne sera comme avant (things are never going to be the same again)! The slogan cried by protesters in the streets of Ouagadougou and other cities of Burkina Faso last October, right before the fall of Blaise Compaoré’s regime, appeared here and there in casual conversations – but this time, colored with irony. A power blackout lasting longer than usual, a workers’ strike stopping the distribution of beer all around the country, the new academic year starting with a few months delay: all everyday events and problems could become an opportunity to reflect, joke or complain on what the transitional government (leading the country until new elections scheduled for next October) had, or had not, accomplished.
A month ago, on the 25th April the CNDD-FDD, the ruling party in Burundi, announced its presidential candidate for the upcoming elections scheduled for June 26. To nobody’s surprise the candidate was Pierre Nkurunziza, the current President who has already served for two terms. This decision was met with heavy protests in the streets of Bujumbura, also to nobody’s surprise. These were the two events that had been predicted and anticipated since long before my arrival in the country early this year. How things would evolve from there was anyone’s guess. But I feel like few people actually thought the protests would last this long, be this organised, and this determined. Now we have witnessed a month of protests, about 30 dead, hundreds injured. And on the 13th of this month there was the failed coup attempt. Continue reading
This seems to currently be the question in Bujumbura, where uncertainty governs at the moment. This coup/non coup led by Major General Godefroid Niyombare is not coming out of nowhere but taking place after over two weeks of deadly protests that have shaken many neighbourhoods of the city and affected all its inhabitants in one way or the other. It’s been a difficult time. People look tired. The people taking active part in the protests must certainly be tired. But other people also look drained and sad, tired of the situation and uncertainty created since the ruling party, CNDD-FDD, announced President Nkurunziza as their candidate for the Presidential elections on April 25. This being a violation of the constitution according to his opponents. Continue reading
The current political situation in Burundi poses significant challenges for organizing credible elections in 2015. Thousands have fled to neighbouring Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Tanzania. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), what started as a trickle of a frightened few has grown into a swell of over 50,000 in a matter of weeks. After two weeks of demonstrations in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, the government decided to dismantle barricades that were blocking movement in the city’s outer neighbourhoods. The first thing to happen was a surge of 200 women marching into the city centre on Sunday, 10 May. Their non-violent protest almost made it to Independence Square. But not quite. They too were stopped. Many are. Well over a dozen people have been killed and hundreds injured in the political protests. Continue reading
On Saturday 25 April, the ruling party in Burundi, the CNDD-FDD (The National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy) – a formerly armed group turned political party after the end of the civil war – held its much awaited party congress at the party headquarters in the capital of Bujumbura. As widely anticipated, the party officially designated the sitting President Pierre Nkurunziza as their presidential candidate in the upcoming elections on 26 June this year. The announcement became the triggering event for the escalation of protests and demonstrations in several suburbs surrounding the city center [for more on the street protests see blog post by Jesper Bjarnesen here]. During the week that followed, similar protests were reported from other urban centers in the country too. A coalition of civil society organisations officially took the lead in organising the post-announcement protests, but in cooperation with several political parties in opposition. The ruling party responded heavy-handedly by closing down several radio stations, blocking social media networks, and banning participation in the protests. In the last few days, tensions have increased and violence escalated between the protesters and the police. Continue reading
Thomas searches half-heartedly for the SIM card he discarded yesterday. He is exhausted. Worn out after three days of protests. He has only been home once to change his clothes since the beginning of the protests against President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term, which was announced at the ruling party’s long-awaited congress on Saturday. Thomas is being watched. Sitting in his sofa in a modest but tidy room in Kamenge, a northern suburb of Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, he seems to be running out of steam. He discarded the SIM card after receiving threatening phone calls. “We know what you are doing”, they said. “The next time you go out onto the street, you’d better bring flowers to honour the president, or else…” Continue reading
“Afrophobia”? “Xenophobia”? “Black on black racism”? A “darker” as you can get hacking a “foreigner” under the pretext of his being too dark — self hate par excellence? Of course all of that at once! Yesterday I asked a taxi driver: “why do they need to kill these “foreigners” in this manner?”. His response: “because under Apartheid, fire was the only weapon we Blacks had. We did not have ammunitions, guns and the likes. With fire we could make petrol bombs and throw them at the enemy from a safe distance”. Today there is no need for distance any longer. To kill “these foreigners”, we need to be as close as possible to their body which we then set in flames or dissect, each blow opening a huge wound that can never be healed. Or if it is healed at all, it must leave on “these foreigners” the kinds of scars that can never be erased. Continue reading