By Isabelle Mbaye. Translated from French by Sarah Kerr.
After 27 years as president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré stepped down on October 31, 2014 as a result of popular pressure. This movement brought an end to Compaore’s stubborn attempts to remain in power, which included amending the constitution to establish a third presidential term, allowing him to run again.
Nearly one year later on September 16, 2015 current President Michel Kafondo and Prime Minister Yacouba Isaac Zida, both members of the transitional government formed following Compaoré’s resignation, were taken hostage by the National Council of Democracy (CND) as part of a coup organized by the General Gilbert Diendéré, the head of the elite Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP) and a close ally of Compaoré. Diendéré and his regime’s attempts to grab power provoked large protests throughout the country as Burkinabe citizens called for the restoration of the transitional government until new elections could take place. General Diendéré relinquished power six days later on September 23, 2015.
A screenshot from a video by Droit Libre TV (Free Law TV).
In both the protests in the fall of 2014 and those that took place in September of this year, Burkinabe citizens mobilized, many through pacifist protest movements like le Balai Citoyen, Résistance Citoyenne, le Mouvement Soyons Sérieux, Droit Libre TV, Burkina24 – despite facing violence from the Regiment of Presidential Security.
Over the past months, WITNESS has worked with more than 63 activists, journalists and eyewitnesses in Burkina Faso to widely distribute resources in French on how to document these human rights violations as the recent political events unfolded.
The materials included the following resources:
Activists, journalists and citizens witnesses have subsequently shared the guides and their videos of the events taking place in Burkina Faso on social media. These guides are available on WITNESS’ French language-site but have also been shared locally via mobile apps like like Whatsapp, Viber or by SMS – although internet connectivity issues proved problematic at times.
For example, video posted by Droit Libre TV shows citizens in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, expressing support for the national army in their efforts remove those behind the recent coup and restore the transitional government. The video below feature demonstrators showing their displeasure with the September 16 coup.
For the moment the situation is calm in Burkina, the transitional government is back in place and life is returning to normal. Meanwhile, the court system should ensure that the violations are punished according to Burkinabe law. This will serve as an example to prevent such violence and violations in future. New elections were scheduled for October but have been postponed.
Isabelle Mbaye is a consultant for WITNESS in Africa.
The featured image is a screenshot of a video from a demonstration in Ouagadougou in 2014.
This post was originally written in French and can be found here.