But not where I was. Down at the big hotel downtown where the visiting presidents are staying and the meetings are taking place, rival demonstrations had a bit of a punch-up, though without gunplay, this morning. According to RFI, it lasted about 15 minutes. Nobody was killed although the bodyguard of one of the opposition politicians was reportedly taken to the hospital. Hope he’s OK. Here’s a link to a Reuters breaking-news story.
This is the first I have heard of public support for the coup outside of the ranks of the RSP. The old ruling party, supporters of ousted president Blaise Compaoré, have been quiet throughout, at least until now. Their offices were sacked and burned on Wednesday night, right after the coup. They reacted by saying that they hoped for a good outcome from the coup but not offering direct support. The coup leader, General Diendéré, has denied that Compaoré or his party had anything to do with the coup. This protest could be what we call in the US “astroturf”, that is, a group of people acting directly at the behest of a player in political events (often paid supporters) who pretend to be independent members of the public. The best-known example in the US is the band of demonstrators who disrupted vote-counting in the 2000 presidential election in Florida and gave Jeb Bush the excuse he needed to take Florida’s election returns to federal courts, where the Supreme Court awarded Jeb’s brother the presidency.
My morning was calm. I went to church, there was a very large crowd. The priest announced a special mass intention for peace in the country, and his sermon (though connected to the readings, which were about Jesus’ announcement of his coming death and resurrection) touched at several points on the need for humility, compromise, and kindness in our relations with each other. I guess they had a bigger crowd than they expected, because they ran out of communion wafers and one of the priests had to run off somewhere and the line waited patiently for several minutes before they got some from wherever they keep the backup stock and went through the prayers of consecration again. I guess more people than just me felt the need of some divine reassurance. Africa is more like Latin America in that most of the time, most people don’t go up for communion. As an American, it is more common for me to see almost all the assembled faithful receive, though there are always a few who step to one side or go up just to receive a blessing. Here, the blessing thing is pretty much unknown and obviously seen as kind of odd (when I did it).
On the way back from church, I passed the Shell gas station. The station was closed, as it has been since Wednesday. A nicely-dressed man, probably coming from church like me, was nonetheless getting his car’s tank filled, with gasoline from liquor bottles sold by guys on the street in front of the station. Talk about competition! This was common in Guinea when I was there, and has now become much more common in Ouaga. Signs of African entrepreneurship, and also of increasing shortages of necessary commodities if this political mess doesn’t end soon. I’ll try to add a picture of the guy getting gas later if I can.
Of course, bottles full of gasoline can be dual-use items, too. I wonder how much business those guys do at night?
And here is a picture of burning tires taken by Reuters. Looks like it’s downtown. There’s apparently a whole neighborhood north of downtown where the traditional leader has declared that the area is closed and everybody will follow the general strike.