Presidential election in Burkina Faso under jihadist threat

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Burkina Faso began voting on Sunday morning to elect its president and its deputies in a tense political and security context with the risk of jihadist attacks and while the opposition fears "massive fraud" by the camp of President Roch Kaboré, favorite for re-election, and threatens not to recognize the results.

Some 6.5 million voters are called to the polls for this double ballot, but nearly a fifth of the country will not be able to vote for lack of a sufficient presence of the state in certain areas of the North and East in prey to jihadist attacks and almost daily intercommunal violence.

In the capital Ouagadougou, in the district Bridle, the first polling stations opened at 6:05 a.m. (local time).

I came to vote early, at the opening, because I have some shopping to do later, said Félix Ouédraogo, in the queue of another office.

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, elected in 2015 and who is seeking a second term, faces 12 opponents, including Zéphirin Diabré, leader of the opposition, and Eddie Komboïgo, candidate of the party of former President Blaise Compaoré, including there is growing nostalgia for the regime that fell six years ago.

Considered the two most serious outsiders, Diabré and Komboïgo, as well as four other candidates, increased the pressure on Saturday by denouncing the risks of fraud.

It is clear that there is a great operation orchestrated by the power in place of a massive fraud to legitimize a victory in the first round of President Kaboré, declared Mr. Diabré, threatening not to not accept results tainted with irregularity.

The opponent ruled inconceivable that a party can win from the first round.

The President of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.

The president of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, candidate for the presidency, comes out of a voting booth in a polling station in Ouagadougou.

Photo: Getty Images / ISSOUF SANOGO

President of the presidential party Simon Compaoré has refuted the allegations, claiming not to need of any fraud to win the elections.

Mr. Kaboré is given favorite in the face of an opposition which has failed to unite, despite a record that has been highly criticized in terms of security by his detractors and observers, who accuse him of immobility.

Sunday morning on social networks, he called the Burkinabè to freely express (their) choice, considering that the ballot is an important turning point for the consolidation of our democracy.

A very poor Sahelian country, Burkina Faso is living its darkest hours since independence in 1960, sinking for five years into a spiral of jihadist and inter-community violence.

Ablasse Ouedraogo and Zéphirin Diabre.

Burkina Faso's presidential candidate Ablasse Ouedraogo (left) and Zéphirin Diabre at a press conference, where they denounce "massive fraud" on the eve of the election.

Photo: Getty Images / OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT

Attacks by jihadist groups – some affiliated with Al-Qaeda, others with the Islamic State organization -, sometimes interspersed with intercommunal violence, and the violent repression by security forces have left at least 1,200 dead (mostly civilians) and driven from their homes a million people, who congregate in large cities after fleeing violence.

No specific measures have been taken to enable these displaced people to vote.

Sign of the ambient tension in the country, an American citizen was killed Saturday by security forces in front of a military camp in Ouagadougou.

In areas affected by jihadist abuses, authorities say security forces were deployed to secure the ballot, but no figures or details were given.

If the vote should take place without too many hitches (in Ouagadougou), it will most certainly be disrupted in some rural areas, estimated International Crisis Group (ICG).

Members of the security forces in Ouagadougou.

Members of the security forces check the list of polling stations in Ouagadougou.

Photo: Getty Images / OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT

In some places in the north of the country, there is no election, and it is far from being the priority of the populations who first seek to avoid being killed, underlines an observer from the region of Dori (north).

The response to the jihadist phenomenon, which has continued to attract populations long neglected by the state since the dawn of the 2010s to the Sahel, has been entirely military. She was not adapted or adequate, says security specialist Mahamoudou Savadogo.

Village militias were created by the authorities in early 2020 with the support of almost all of the political class. They were deployed in general vagueness. Their local roots mean that their real number remains unknown – several thousand according to estimates – but they should play a role in securing the ballot in the countryside, according to some.

Politically, this presidential election seems the most open in the history of the country. Opponents announced that they would unite behind the one who came out on top for the second round, a scenario that has never happened in Burkina Faso.

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