in Burkina Faso, elections under the terrorist threat

Rahanatou Bouda got up at dawn, impatient to go to vote ” for the change “ this Sunday, November 22 in Burkina Faso, where some 6.5 million voters were called to the polls for a double presidential and legislative ballot. “All I wish is that peace finally returns to our country”, breathes this 25-year-old young woman, her hair covered with a long floral veil, while a line of twenty people patient in front of a polling station at the primary school of Pissy, in Ouagadougou.

She does her duty as a citizen with more bitterness than five years ago, her heart aching at the thought of her two military brothers, aged 20 and 25, killed on mission last year. “I want our president to be up to the security crisis”, insists this teacher, who prefers to keep silent the name of the candidate of his choice. For many voters, the expectations are immense. In five years, terrorist attacks have left more than 1,600 dead and a million displaced people have been forced to flee their homes because of the violence.

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The ballot could be tight. The outgoing president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, elected in 2015 and who is seeking a second term, faces twelve opponents, including several heavyweights of the old regime. The head of state’s record is widely criticized. While waiting in the queue, Théophile Dabiré enumerates the evils which plague the country. “Insecurity, unemployment, strikes …” This 29-year-old lawyer has decided to vote for ” breaking “. “The country is going badly, Roch lacked courage, we need a strong president who can take firm decisions”, saddens this Ouagalais, mask on his chin.

“Sure of a knockout”

The tone is more benevolent at the primary school of Patte-d’oie, the district where President Kaboré resides. “Here we vote Papa Roch!” “, proudly proclaims Issouf Naissa, a traveling telephone salesman, who is “Sure of a knockout” from the first round. All smiles, he points to the ink-stained finger with which he has just voted. Here several voters want “Give a second chance” to the president. “It’s true that he didn’t achieve everything, but he did his best and was able to remain resilient. These attacks are not his fault ”, defends Daouda Sorgho, a 42-year-old driver, who advocates “Continuity”. “Since we have already started with him, it is better to continue to advance than to retreat with a new one”, abounds a 22-year-old electrician, who is voting this year for the first time.

In the Zogona district, the tone rises between two customers of a small street bar. It talks about Eddie Komboïgo, the candidate of the party of former President Blaise Compaoré, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), who hopes to make his comeback after his exclusion in 2015. “The CDP has learned from its mistakes! “, proclaims Salif Kouanda, a 42-year-old fashion designer, in front of his coffee mug bearing the image of the “handsome Blaise”. “We marched against them in 2014, not to give them back power today! “, his neighbor at the table gets angry.

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In Burkina Faso, the question of national reconciliation and the return of the former president, exiled for six years in Côte d’Ivoire, is the other sensitive subject. Behind the counter, Salif Déné, the owner tries to calm things down. “The most important thing is that we leave these elections in peace, hand in hand, we must at all costs avoid tearing each other apart”, he worries, waving behind his stove.

The ballot took place on Sunday in a particularly tense security context in Burkina Faso. Because of the threat of armed groups, some affiliated with Al Qaeda, others with the Islamic State (IS) organization, nearly a fifth of the country is classified in the red zone by the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and excluded de facto of the vote. On November 11, in the midst of the electoral campaign, fourteen soldiers were killed in an attack on their convoy, claimed by ISIS, on the road to Tin-Akoff, in the Sahel region.

Threatened polling stations

According to CENI figures, around 50,000 members of the security forces were to be deployed on Sunday to secure the ballot. Despite everything, hundreds of polling stations were unable to open, mainly in the north and east of the country. “There are offices where we were planning to go and where the situation deteriorated, the security forces advised us not to go there”, explains Ahmed Newton Barry, the president of the CENI, “Pained” of the situation.

According to our information, several polling stations were directly threatened and preferred to close their doors after having briefly opened in the eastern region. “Armed men came by to say that there would be no elections here”, reports a resident, by phone. “Some are afraid to go to vote, with ink on their finger, they are exposed and they fear reprisals from terrorists”, saddens Aboubacar Dicko, candidate of the SENS movement in the legislative elections in the municipality of Djibo (Sahel).

Read also Elections in Burkina Faso: in “red zone”, a campaign under the sign of the terrorist threat

In this deleterious context, the opposition stepped up to the plate on Saturday and denounced “A large operation of massive fraud (…) orchestrated by the power in place to legitimize a certain knockout”, declared Zéphirin Diabré, main opponent and candidate of the Union for Progress and Change (UPC), who filed a complaint against X with the prosecutor of Faso. The results are expected Monday, November 23, according to forecasts from the CENI.

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