Halloween in the Land of Upright Men or Burkina Faso

jeune police

The young people of Burkina Faso (Land Of Upright Men) have successfully done what hardly any other African countries have done before with the least casualties recorded. Today, Friday October 31st 2014, the president Blaise Compaoré resigned and dissolved the current government due to the demands of his people. He avoided further violence, shameful dethronement and excessive foreign scrutiny. I won’t saddle you with facts about the people of Burkina Faso in terms of Geography and economics. I trust that those of you taking interest in reading this article are pretty familiar with the fact that they are African country lodged somewhere above the Ivory Coast and Ghana and below Mali and Niger with all the northern streams of the River Volta running in three different regions of the country hence its former colonial name – Upper Volta.

From the coup d’etat in 1984 to the unrest in 2011 alongside the Arab Spring to October 2014, the people of Burkina Faso have often exacted change in their unrest. Either a change in leadership or a change in the manner of governance and today is just proof of that. Now, the challenge with all such change from unrest is the management of the transition. Now, I am no power expert but I am a fan of watching large-scale transformation occur among a people. Particularly, African people for it seems in the last 500 years our narrative has taken a few hits. I will be using a series of values exposed by British political activist Jeremy Heimans to see if we can talk constructively on how the people of Burkina Faso can create and maintain a prosperous future with their newly asserted autonomy.

According to Jeremy Heimans, the new power values are #transparency, #do-it-ourselves, #speed, #participation, #networkedgovernance, #collaboration, #fickle and #moreaffiliation

Now, this is not to say that the people of Burkina Faso have to learn any of these values. I think how far they get with each revolution goes to show they are probably people politically ahead of much of their fellow West African States. But can we assess where they are put ideas out there for them to know that they can in fact maintain a prosperous land-locked country. These values are not prescriptions but observations from the most successful and effective new organizations that have gone against the grain or the old guards of LAND, ENERGY, & TRANSPORTATION. They still maximize COMMUNICATION which often referred to by some as #information

In 1984, their former president and revolutionary Thomas Isidore Sankara created a system of transparency in government by making sure all corrupt officials were brought to tribunals to explain their choices and decisions that obviously brought more demise than progress. However, after years of public scrutiny, like the French revolution of 1789, it turned into a guillotine of public embarrassment that marginalized a rising middle class who then courted the foreign influences of the French and neighboring Ivory Coast. This is all to say, in the coming months/years of reconstruction, I hope the Burkinabes focus on a transparency that protects their people more than it seeks to punish or ostracize them. So by all means bring to trial the people who may defile public interests but maybe show more of the people who are actually implementing positive ideas. Show the people what works and what does not rather than embarrass the people who are flawed and over-exalt the people who are doing good.

Another area of success the people or Burkina Faso have experienced is growing the gross national product with their commitment to more productive labor with a self-determining ideal. Thomas Sankara preached the ideal of being proud Burkinabes, hence being proud Africans. He publicly chastised people for wearing Levi’s and other imported fashion labels while not having a brand of their own while they were a country that grew and weaved cotton. How can they implement this now? Well, I suspect while that was a good idea there’s truth to the notion of free will: something Levi’s understands quite well. So while it may have worked for the Burkinabe weaver and cotton farmers it may stifled the will Burkinabe retailers. So while the Burkinabes can make it themselves they should also be willing to sell it themselves and market it themselves and heck why not export some of it.

Well, when it comes to productivity, I cannot criticize the speed of a people among whom I have not lived. I think speed of production is best determined the demands of the market they participate in. But since we live in the era of the smartphone communication, I am sure the aims of the future of Burkina Faso will be transmitted quite well via mobile in the event of a broadcast shutdown as is currently the case. But this is another area where I believe they shall have to decide for themselves especially decide for themselves what their impact in Francophonie shall be from here on out. Toe the line? Change course? Challenge the status quo? We shall see…

nombre est force

One thing which the Burkinabes excel at is in participation in the political activity. They have always been a hugely participatory culture from their days of the Mossi Empire, to the Empire of Mali and Songhai they have been part of large swathes of political change and it is something they should celebrate for they are living proof of a unity among an African people that gets results very much unlike in Gaddafi’s Libya, Charles Taylor’s Liberia, Morsi’s Egypt who had their populations divided in two or more popular factions. Now not to say that they are a perfect union but they are pretty good at having a very unanimous majority. They can all favor one thing but then they can all change their minds and they often seem to go in one direction. This brings us to the next part of the #newpower values

Fickle: Since new power shifts, the people of Burkina Faso and the high participation percentage can actually sustain large levels of change as long as the people keep marching together. They have an army that is committed to the people more than their assertion of power over the people. But then again the degree to which Jeremy means this is tested differently across different organizations and this is not a value that often favors the stability of a new power structure. So while they enjoy this new power event they need to be prepared to handle a situation which may require constant change for better or worse. Something tells me that fighting this hard to prevent a four term president from pushing a bill to validate his run for a 5th term, means fickle/stable ratio is now millions:1 

Burkina Faso 1

Another element of power that can be of huge benefit to the people of Burkina Faso and several other African countries for that matter is the area of networked governance. For a country that was run by one man for more than three decades it is no surprise there is now a huge gap in the seat of power because hardly anyone is willing to step up to the plate and face the heat of such a united people. This could turn out great or it could be hazardous in the long run. I will start with the hazardous possibility. The army is currently keeping a certain measure of order but as the clashes have shown the people are not afraid of the army and are willing to confront them when their needs are not being served. However, as we have seen in such instances all it takes is an extreme, bloodthirsty military commander and an excess of weaponry (often provided by foreign allies in favor of instability for economic exploitation) and this situation can go from liberation to “stalinisation“.  Let’s look at the positive possibility. I’ll start with their fallen previous leader Thomas Sankara. He engineered so much change in a span of three years that was unseen any of the neighboring African countries due to his ideals and hands-on approach to power. He was among the people, motivating the people and always keeping them involved in what he believed to be the progress of the nation. Trouble was, as was later discovered… he was somewhat of a micromanager and did not do well at delegating. From controlling the people’s fashion to the programming and media – all for good reason – but when such supervision goes on too long its most willing participants shall become its most vehement dissidents. So one lesson, the people of Burkina Faso can learn is by all means, follow an economic model that is self-determining, empowering, productive but empower your departments enough so that trust has room to grow. This sounds very wordy but in practice every human being knows when they need to be supervised and when they need to be left alone and if the new power brokers in Burkina Faso come up with an effective means of communication, they will be able to know when to supervise and when to trust and they may free themselves from foreign infringement.

I could talk about #collaboration but my paragraph on participation and fickle do enough to assert a clear collaborative ideal the people of Burkina Faso inherently have. Therefore, I will be jumping to the value of more affiliation -#moreaffiliation. One mistake the people of Burkina Faso cannot afford to make at this time is to isolate themselves from their surrounding economies. They may determine the extent of their participation but at no point can they afford to exclude themselves without catastrophic results. For example, one could argue that they could return to their productive days of cotton farming, wheat, manganese mining and possible oil production but we all saw where that led once Thomas Sankara publicly chastised the other African heads of state and spoke sourly of further affiliation with the West. Ideologically, he had a point; in fact, he was right but was his approach effective? Well, he was assassinated and dismembered. It is important in this new age of African politics that we don’t sacrifice connectedness for righteousness for our righteousness does not guarantee our survival in the event of annihilation. So it is of primary interest for the people of Burkina Faso to have ties with as many like-minded nations as possible: all over the world and maintain civility with those they disagree with. Keep themselves in the game in order to change it. Which in his last speech to the Organisation of African Unity, Thomas Sankara rightfully acknowledged “If I am the only one championing a rejection of the debt (International Monetary Fund reconstruction Debt), I will not be alive to make it back next year.”

It is quite fascinating that on a day when much of the West is celebrating Halloween or what could also be seen as the Feast of the Dead, the people of Burkina Faso have brought to life one of the ideals championed by their former leader who once quoted “You may be able to kill/assassinate a man but you can’t kill an idea”. His death turned him into an African political martyr and today the Land of Upright Men have brought his message into their reality once more. Let’s hope this time they can keep its prosperous aspects longer and provide hope for a more prosperous Africa and a truly peaceful world.

Thanks for reading.

Jude @ xulaima

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