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Thursday, October 30, 2014

“Ouagadougou” - Capital of Burkina Faso in turmoil...

Before you mistake these three colours for something else – it is river – the Volta River,  a stream primarily in Ghana that drains into the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean. It has three main tributaries—the Black Volta, White Volta and Red Volta.

You may not easily spell or pronounce “Ouagadougou” – the name of capital of Burkina Faso and the administrative, communications, cultural and economic centre of the nation.  The city's name is often shortened to Ouaga. The inhabitants are called ouagalais.  Ouagadougou's primary industries are food processing and textiles. It is served by an international airport, rail links to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.  The name Ouagadougou dates back to the 15th century when the Ninsi tribes inhabited the area. They were in constant conflict until 1441 when Wubri, a Yonyonse hero and an important figure in Burkina Faso's history, led his tribe to victory. He then renamed the area from "Kumbee-Tenga", as the Ninsi had called it, to "Wage sabre soba koumbem tenga", meaning "head war chief's village".   The city became the capital of the Mossi Empire in 1441.

The place is in news for wrong reasons – it’s Parliament is on fire …. Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa around 274,200 square kilometres (105,900 sq mi) in size. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali,  Niger, Benin, Togo,  Ghana and Ivory Coast.   Formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was renamed "Burkina Faso" on 4th  August 1984 by the then-President Thomas Sankara, using a word from each of the country's two major native languages, Mòoré and Dioula. Figuratively, Burkina, from Mòoré, may be translated as "men of integrity", while Faso means "fatherland" in Dioula. "Burkina Faso" is understood as "Land of upright people" or "Land of honest people”.   French is an official language of government and business in the country.

Today, Daily Mail reports that protesters set fire to Parliament amid violent demonstrations against president's bid to extend his rule.  Angry demonstrators went on the rampage in Burkina Faso today in protest at plans to allow the President to extend his 27-year rule, setting the parliament on fire and wreaking havoc across the capital. Crowds of people broke through a heavy security cordon and stormed the National Assembly building in Ouagadougou, ransacking offices and setting fire to cars. One man was killed in the chaos that erupted in the west African nation shortly before lawmakers were due to vote on the controversial legislation.

The United States and former colonial power France voiced alarm over the unrest gripping the poor west African nation and appealed for calm. Amid the surging violence, the government announced it was calling off the vote but it was not immediately clear if this was only a temporary move. Black smoke billowed out of smashed windows at the parliament building, where several offices were ravaged by flames, including the speaker's office, although the main chamber so far appeared to be unscathed. The ruling party headquarters in the second city of Bobo Dioulasso and the city hall was also torched by protesters, witnesses said.

The country has been tense for days in the run-up to today's vote on constitutional changes to extend President Blaise Compaore's rule.  The European Union has urged the government to scrap the legislation, warning that it could 'jeopardise... stability, equitable development and democratic progress', and had called for all sides to refrain from violence. The legislature is due to examine a proposed amendment that would allow Compaore, now in the 27th year of his presidency, to run for re-election in November next year for another five years.  Compaore's bid to cling to power has angered the opposition and much of the public, including many young people in a country where 60 percent of the population of almost 17 million is under 25. Many have spent their entire lives under the leadership of one man and - with the poor former French colony stagnating at 183rd out of 186 countries on the UN human development index - many have had enough.  Compaore was only 36 when he seized power in a 1987 coup in which his former friend and one of Africa's most loved leaders, Thomas Sankara, was ousted and assassinated. The 63-year-old has remained in power since then, re-elected president four times since 1991 - to two seven-year and two five-year terms.

The opposition fears the new rules would enable Compaore to seek re-election not just once, but three more times, paving the way for up to 15 more years in power. Protesters have erected barricades and burned tyres in the capital since the proposal was announced on October 21.

Things are not alright at ‘the land of honest people’

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

30th Oct 2014.

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