Ripples from the Burkina Faso insurrection
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Ripples from the Burkina Faso insurrection

Posted TAMBA JEAN-MATTHEW

on  Sunday, November 23   2014 at  10:49

The ripples from the civilian insurrection in Burkina Faso that culminated in the ousting of President Blaise Compaoré have triggered some obvious reactions from several African governments, particularly those with undemocratic structures.

The first obvious reaction came from the continent’s longest serving military-turned-civilian leader, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, who seized power from his uncle in 1979.

Almost immediately following the ousting of President Compaoré, the excitement arising from the event was captured and reflected by the local media, causing President Nguema to hurriedly ban both the independent and state-run media from mentioning the revolt.

A journalist at the state broadcaster who asked for anonymity told the Agence France Press (AFP)  that all journalists at the state-run media were ordered not to report the fall of President Compaore.

In neighbouring Congo, President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, a former general who also seized power from a democratically elected president, also quickly went glum on the Burkina uprising. 

Mr Sassou-Nguesso is also alleged to be planning to amend his country’s constitution to enable him run for a fourth mandate during the 2016 elections after 16 years in power.

But following agitation by the opposition inspired by events in Burkina Faso, an official statement warned Congolese that “Congo is not Burkina Faso”. 

The ongoing protest in Congo was fuelled by the arrest of 32 opposition members mostly belonging to the Congolese Social Democratic Party, 20 of them have since been released while the remainder are still in custody.

Radio France International reported the arrests occurred in Brazzaville on November 4, 2014 during a political meeting at the home of opposition leader Clément Meirassa. The source alleged that the opposition politicians were discussing plans of how to end President Sassou-Nguesso’s grip on power.

A Biafran connection

In Togo, the youthful President Faure Gnasingbe is also believed to be planning to cling on to power. But the spirit of the Burkina Faso insurrection is alive and strong in Togo and could force him to backpedal.

In a move timed to coincide with the Burkinabe political drama, the civil society-backed opposition has begun a two month-long campaign to collect 500,000 signatures from young Togolese of voting age.

The intention is to attach them to a petition they would submit to parliament in a bid to limit the presidential mandate to five years, renewable once.

Paul Amagakpo, the executive director of the National Civil Society forum which is driving the initiative, told the Dakar-based West Africa Democracy Radio that the petition would also seek to scrap the one-round voting for the presidency that was instituted by President Gnassingbe's late father, General Gnassingbe Eyadema.

In Gabon, even though the pressure against President Ali Bongo is not intrinsically linked to the Burkina insurrection, the political class seized the opportunity of the event to step up effort to preclude the youthful leader from contesting the 2016 polls.

Hence, the political opposition including former AU chairperson Jean Ping are using the book as a springboard to attack and block President Bongo from contesting another mandate.

French author Pierre Péan alleges in the book entitled Nouvelles Affaires Africaines (New African Scandals) that Ali Bongo was not a Gabonese national by birth, claiming that he had been adopted by his father and his first wife, Patience Dabany, from Biafra in Nigeria. .

According to a November 2014 edition of the report by the Institute for Security Studies, during the Biafran war in the 1960s, a number of war orphans fled to Gabon, and Ali Bongo is presumed to have been one of them.

Mr Péan, an investigative journalist, bases these allegations on the testimony of those in Ali Bongo's inner circle. He maintains that the issue of Ali Bongo's nationality has been an open secret for years.

He also uses inconsistencies in the president's birth certificate, which was allegedly drawn up only two months before the death of his father Omar Bongo in June 2009, as proof of the adoption. Hence, the opposition is insisting that the Gabonese president falsified his birth certificate that initially identified him as a Nigerian from Biafra.

The Gabonese government has announced that it will file a complaint against the author.

Nationwide demonstrations organised by the opposition that were to take place on November 13, 2014 was banned at the last minute as law enforcement officers were placed on maximum alert.