The Last Time I Was in Ouagadougou…

Well actually, it was the only time. But how many times in my life will I get the chance to say those words? Between Ouaga as it’s called for short and Bobo-Dioulasso, I was in the country of Burkina Faso a total of 14 days. You can read about why by hopping over to my book, African Tales. This blog post is a shameless attempt to get you to do just that.

I bring up Ouagadougou because it’s in the news today. The New York Times has a piece about “tens of thousands” marching through Burkina Faso’s capital city yesterday demonstrating against a proposed change to the West African country’s constitution that would allow President Blaise Compaoré to run again next year. He’s already been in power 27 years, and the people are saying “enough is enough.” Some people threw rocks. The police fired tear gas. See how similar all our countries are?

Our own country went through a similar controversy over presidential term limits back in 1944 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to a fourth term. Afterward, our country also said “enough is enough” and in 1951 passed the 22nd Amendment barring a president from serving more than two full terms. I was alive then but not paying attention to such things. These days, both the country and the president seem grateful to have the four or eight years come to a conclusion.

Burkina Faso is a usually peaceful place with friendly people who have lived since 1991 under a constitutional democracy “in theory at least,” as one writer put it, “if not always effectively in practice.” The nation, formerly known as Upper Volta, experienced a number of military coups following independence from France, the most recent of which put the current president in power.

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