The Performance Of ‘Democracy’

The elections went off without a hitch. The polling stations opened on time, the people walked, waiting and cast their ballots. The observers and monitors performed their responsibilities. The election commission provided all the necessary facilities, services, support, guidance, training and management needed to complete the process. Civic groups remained vigilant, and some like Le Balai Citoyen sending their staff members to act as ‘unofficial’ observers and monitors to ensure a ‘free’ and ‘fair’ process. The ‘international community’ was satisfied.

At the Centre pour l’alphabetisation-Tingandogo-Nagrin polling station.

 

The citizens of Burkina Faso went to the polls for the first time since independence on 29 November 2015. These elections are the result of a people’s movement that toppled the long entrenched dictator Blaise Campaore.

The citizens of Burkina Faso went to the polls for the first time since independence on 29 November 2015. These elections are the result of a people’s movement that toppled the long entrenched dictator Blaise Campaore.

The narrative circle so loved by mainstream media–a cruel dictator, a people rising up against his grasp for power, his flight, a turn to liberalism’s most vaunted goal of ‘participatory democracy’, and an arrival into ‘modernity’. The script was practically perfect, and no one asked why the men standing for political office were only some weeks earlier, the same one standing next to the very dictator recently ousted.

December 11th, 2015 Independence Day celebrations, with commemoration of local heroes, particularly those who were injured or hurt during the uprising against the Campaore regime, and the coup that followed after his fall.

December 11th, 2015 Independence Day celebrations, with commemoration of local heroes, particularly those who were injured or hurt during the uprising against the Campaore regime, and the coup that followed after his fall.

December 11th, 2015 Independence Day celebrations, with commemoration of local heroes, particularly those who were injured or hurt during the uprising against the Campaore regime, and the coup that followed after his fall.

And fewer still wondered how the discourse of ‘democracy’ had subtly pushed out the Sankarist discourse of justice, equality, and redistribution. This was not the time to ask the unpleasant questions. It was a time to celebrate a return to ‘normalcy’–even if that was one that left Burkina Faso tight in the grip of foreign capital, and a resource extraction economy. The national day was celebrated with great fanfare–with dignity and pride restored, and Burkina Faso the centre of world media attention, the claims to being an independent nation seemed more apt than ever.

It had all worked out so cleanly. So near perfectly. As I observed the election, and the national day celebrations, and spoke to people about what was unfolding here, I could not help but wonder whether I was being read a script. It was all just too perfect, and the rhetoric all too pat. As I watched the grand performances–the medals being handed out, the playing of the national anthem, the bored but aloof demeanour of the ‘dignitaries’ and national leadership attending, I thought back to Fanon

A bourgeoisie that provides nationalism alone as food for the masses fails in its mission and gets caught up in a whole series of mishaps. But if nationalism is not made explicit, if it is not enriched and deepened by a very rapid transformation into a consciousness of social and political needs, in other words into humanism, it leads up a blind alley. The bourgeois leaders of under-developed countries imprison national consciousness in sterile formalism…The living expression of the nation is the moving consciousness of the whole of the people; it is the coherent, enlightened action of men and women. The collective building up of a destiny is the assumption of responsibility on the historical scale. [Fanon, 1965, 164-165].

I could only hope that this new leadership will remember.