Apr. 3rd, 2011

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Features:Popular protests in Burkina Faso

Political tensions have been rising in the tiny West African nation of Burkina Faso following the death in police custody of student Justin Zongo on 20 February, which sparked widespread student anger. Authorities initially said the death was due to meningitis, a lie that only amplified the protests, which quickly spread from Zongo’s native town of Koudougou in west-central Burkina Faso to the entire country. Are these protests a mere imitation of developments in north Africa?

Burkina Faso has a vibrant civil society that has managed to resist attempts by successive regimes in the post-colonial period to be co-opted into the single party system or the system of trade union representation that continues to dog the country.

Events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya certainly have encouraged mobilisation in Burkina Faso, where people also want the current regime ‘out’. From slogans such as ‘Tunisia is in Koudougou’ and ‘Burkina will have its Egypt’[1] to caricatures on Facebook, there are echoes of the Arab spring in the country and some youth groups in Koudougou have even compared Justin Zongo to Mohamed Bouaziz[2]. In contrast to Ben Ali’s Tunisia and Mubarak’s Egypt, Burkina Faso has always had a certain degree of freedom of information and expression and the right to organise. It is easier for young people from underprivileged classes to meet and plan their actions in person[3] rather than on the net[4].
ETA: Uprisings in Southern Africa
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