Calm Before The Storm?

Tomorrow is the election, and today, by law, Burkinabè get a day to reflect on their choice without the constant interruption of campaign messages. So I was able to ride around town this morning without risking getting run down by campaign busses or getting my ears assaulted by sound trucks or candidate booths in the market. It is a very pleasant day and so I did just that. I got up to the north side of town and saw where that nice river that flows through the park where I ride my bike comes from:

Barrage 1

There’s a series of dams and (quite shallow) reservoirs that hold Ouagadougou’s drinking water. A comforting sight since it hasn’t rained for weeks now and probably won’t rain much again until late next spring. A million and a half people use a lot of water even in the third world.

I was at a campaign rally last night, at the SIAO, an art and handicrafts school not far from my house. There was reggae music, somebody singing quite a few old songs that I recognized from the repertoire of Burkina Faso’s most famous musical star, Alpha Blondy, with new words related to the current situation. The candidate, “Zeph” Diabré, spoke. He sounded sensible. Everybody was quite passionate about their choice but nobody I talked too sounded like they were willing to deploy violence if politics didn’t work out the way they wanted. Similarly, I was talking with a group of traders in the marketplace. They supported a range of candidates. I said of course that I didn’t have a preference because I am a foreigner and we have no business telling the Burkinabè who they should elect. They didn’t seem to be angry at one another beyond the normal range of political discourse.

On the other hand, an expat woman I was speaking with yesterday was quite fearful. She said she had been scheduled to travel out of the country for work last week but had decided to stay in country until next week because she didn’t want to be separated from her son in case of some emergency. I said I thought the bad guys had shot their wad in September, and it didn’t turn out to be much of a wad at that. To which she replied that she was concerned about external threats, presumably a Mali-style attack intended to disrupt the elections. I don’t see that Islamists would necessarily want to disrupt elections; what would they gain? Other than the emnity of most Burkinabè. Maybe the old regime might have sent some foreign fighters to raise a ruckus, but without the support of anybody internally, all they could do was make trouble. I can’t see how it would advance their agenda and I don’t see the very canny Compaoré or any other former regime figure wanting to cause trouble just for the sake of trouble.

Today at lunch, the next table was full of African Union and European election observers, discussing their plans. No particular concerns about security for them; had I been evilly-intentioned, I could probably have found out some useful information for mounting an attack. I wished them well in their endeavors.

I intend to be out and about tomorrow, watching voting and cheering on the process. In a concession to security fears, I will stay away from expat hotels and restaurants. I’ll report again tomorrow, hopefully with more pictures. And the results supposedly come out on Monday.

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