Burkina Faso: the Burkinabè voted, despite the jihadist threat

On Sunday 22 November, some 6.5 million Burkinabè went to the polls to elect both their new president and their deputies. Until the last moment, the country will have vibrated to the rhythm of the campaign and the preparations. A total of 21,155 kits of materials, including ballots and minutes, were distributed. To organize these elections, the budget was revised to 90 billion CFA francs, or 13 million euros.

Thirteen candidates, including outgoing president Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, are in the running. Regarding the legislative elections, 96 parties, five political parties and 25 independent groups, or 10,652 candidates, are vying for the seats.

10,600 international and national observers were deployed on the ground with the essential objective of ensuring the smooth running of the electoral process with a view to a free, transparent and credible election. The Economic Community of West African States, which deployed 80 observers, called on candidates to avoid making self-proclamations. “As long as the count is not finished, as long as the compilation is in progress, it is better to avoid making self-proclamations”, advised the commissioner for political affairs, peace and security of the sub-regional institution, General Francis Behanzin.

The Ceni assured that it will try to proclaim the first results of the ballot the day after the double ballot, on November 23, as was the case during the 2015 elections. An idea rejected by the political opposition which considers that proceed from the sort “is to run the risk of making mistakes and sowing the seeds of a post-election crisis”.

Read also Burkina Faso: Diabré and Komboïgo, these competitors of President Kaboré

A peaceful day of voting …

In the capital Ouagadougou, several polling stations opened very early in the morning, around 6 a.m. GMT. “I came to vote early, at the opening, because I have some shopping to do later,” said Félix Ouédraogo, interviewed by Agence France Presse in the queue of another office.

“I expect a lot of good things for the country to come: first a president who will be up to the security situation and also deputies who will vote laws capable of bringing us development”, testified at the leaving his polling station in the capital Christian Koula.

“We expect a lot from security. We know that it is not easy but we would like there to be peace, for there to be forgiveness among the Burkinabè and for us to be able to live together peacefully, ”said Abdoulaye Koula, another voter from Ouagadougou. .

In Bobo-Dioulasso, economic capital in the west of the country, witnesses on the spot assured that the vote began in several offices with a few minutes late in certain neighborhoods.

… but under the jihadist threat

The president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) explained that everything had been done to resolve the difficulties related to the start-up. Only downside, a “number of polling stations” had to be closed because of “threats” while the country plagued by incessant jihadist attacks, added the chairman of the Electoral Commission, Newton Ahmed Barry.

“There are a number of polling stations which had opened in the east and in other regions which had to close due to threats,” he said without specifying the number of stations closed. and the nature of those threats. “Individuals have banned populations from taking part in the vote,” he said during a mid-day report, nevertheless considering that “on the whole (…) everything is going well”.

The closure of polling stations was confirmed to AFP by a security source in the East: “given the threats from armed individuals, they (offices) have closed”.

In some localities in the East and North, the regions most affected by the attacks, “people have been told that whoever plunges his finger in indelible ink can say goodbye to his finger”, according to Newton Ahmed. Barry.

In Arbinda, in the north where 42 people were killed in December 2019, “normally we have 100 polling stations but we were able to open only 25”, Barry told reporters.

In Tin-Akoff (Oudalan), where 14 soldiers were killed in an ambush during the election campaign, no polling station opened.

“If the vote should take place without too many hitches [à Ouagadougou], it will most certainly be disturbed in certain rural areas, ”said the International Crisis Group (ICG).

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. from Dori (North).

The opposition does not let go

Until the last moment, the opposition mounted the pressure, denouncing a “massive fraud” in preparation by the authorities and threatening not to recognize the results in the event of victory in the first round of outgoing President Kaboré. Opposition leader Zéphirin Diabré, the outgoing president’s main challenger, and five other candidates denounced during a press briefing in Ouagadougou fraud in the organization of the double presidential and legislative elections on Sunday. “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, he declared, threatening not to “accept results tainted with irregularity ”.

“It is absolutely inconceivable, after having traveled all over Burkina Faso, to think of having a winning party from the first round”, he again hammered, with Eddie Komboïgo, candidate of the party of former President Blaise at his side. Compaoré and presented as the third man of the poll.

Blaise Compaoré’s Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), which was banned from voting in 2015, is indeed back, the former president seeming to benefit from a certain comeback in Burkinabè public opinion. . Since his fall in 2014, he has lived in exile in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), where Alassane Ouattara granted him Ivorian nationality.

The Kaboré clan promised, as in 2015, a victory in the first round of this election considered to be the most open in the history of Burkina, a very poor agricultural and mining country in West Africa, which has suffered multiple blows. State since its independence. “Now is the time for voting and not for controversy. Today, what I would simply like to say is that I have come to vote, a citizen act and I call on all Burkinabés, whatever their tendencies, not to be lazy because they are it is about the democracy of Burkina Faso, the development of Burkina Faso and peace in our country, ”declared outgoing President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré after having voted at the Patte d’Oie B primary school in Ouagadougou.

Several other presidential candidates also fulfilled their electoral duty. Among them, Zéphirin Diabré, the leader of the opposition, who voted in the morning in Ouagadougou. The candidate Tahirou Barry voted at the Nonglom school in Toudoubweogo, in the capital. As for the candidate of the former ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), Eddie Komboïgo, he also voted in the morning.

Read also Burkina Faso: the significant events since the fall of Blaise Compaoré

Kaboré in search of the “knockout blow”

A “one-shot KO” victory would allow Mr. Kaboré to avoid a second round against a candidate supported by the entire opposition, a “fear”, according to political science professor Drissa Traoré cited by Agence France Hurry.

In 2015, the party “had achieved this feat [d’une victoire au premier tour], but it was mainly thanks to his kingsmaker ”, the late president of the presidential party Salif Diallo, renowned political strategist, who died in 2017. There was never a second round in a presidential election in Faso until present.

On Friday, during his last campaign meeting, President Kaboré mocked these accusations of fraud, already mentioned by Mr. Diabré: “How can we anticipate fraud? Asked the president in front of tens of thousands of activists.

He had mocked “those who do not even know how elections go”.

This rise in pressure on Saturday occurs after a campaign without real enthusiasm, apart from the meager excitement of the meetings where the presence of thousands of people was “motivated” by a small note, tell our colleagues from AFP.

Read also Burkina Faso: finally a normal ballot?

Security, the major issue of the elections

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday praised the “climate of mutual respect during the electoral process” as Burkina Faso lives its darkest hours since independence, undermined by attacks by jihadist groups that have killed at least 1,200 people in five years.

All of Burkina Faso is in the red zone for the Quai d’Orsay, with the exception of the capital.

The Kaboré presidency has not succeeded in halting this spiral since the first attacks in 2015. “The diagnosis was poor and the response was neither adequate nor appropriate,” said security specialist Mahamoudou Sawadogo.

In Burkina Faso, as in neighboring Mali and Niger, jihadist violence has also degenerated into intercommunal clashes. The confusion between the Fulani populations and jihadism is widespread. NGOs have denounced massacres of Fulani civilians by pro-government militias or the army, and abuses by one community lead to reprisals by the other.

The choice of all-security was made, but the Burkinabè army, poorly equipped and poorly trained, is going from loss to loss, despite some claimed success. The question of a possible dialogue with jihadist groups, very present in Mali, was debated during the campaign, President Kaboré being against, his challengers speaking out almost unanimously in favor.

One of the solutions proposed by the outgoing Head of State was the creation in early 2020 of village militias supervised by the State, the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP).

Their role in securing this Sunday’s election remains unclear: the presidential party “could be accused of using its troops” to encourage Kaboré to vote, said a Western diplomatic source in Ouagadougou. Alongside this possible device, members of the security forces, the number of which has not been revealed, have been deployed throughout the country.

In the meantime, the number of people displaced by these attacks has increased exponentially in two years to reach one million, or 5% of the Burkinabè population, whole swathes of the territory beyond state control.

This election is also unprecedented, since Burkinabè living abroad were able to participate in the vote, for the first time in the country’s history.

Read also Burkina Faso: democracy in the face of terrorism

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