Today is the National Day of Burkina Faso.
On this day in 1958, Burkina Faso achieved self-government, and became a republic and member of the Franco-African Community. The Republic of Upper Volta, as the country was then called, gained full independence two years later. The name of the country was changed to Burkina Faso in 1984.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has sent a cable of greetings to President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso on the occasion of his country’s National Day. His Majesty the Sultan expressed his greetings and wishes of good health and happiness for President Compaore and further progress and prosperity for the friendly people of Burkina Faso.
I will say, this is the largest National Day I’ve seen since I’ve been here. People have been talking on how this used to be a great celebration throughout the 1970s and 1980s. However, when Blaise Compaore came to power in ‘87 it kind of went by the wayside. (On August 4, the country celebrates the day Tomas Sankara came to power, with the aid of Blaise Compaore.)
Traffic has been snarled downtown for the past few weeks as the city prepares for the parades, marches and other manifestations. Shops are decked out in flags; red, green and gold colored signs flap in the wind. We’ve heard aircraft “fly by” during random times this past week. Military trucks full of uniformed soldiers have also been cruising around. Yesterday, the president even inaugurated the holiday to start at 2:30 pm, resulting in a stampede on city streets.
Nobody can tell the reasons for this year’s change. It doesn’t fall on any significant anniversary – unless 49 signifies something to somebody in power. Compaore watchers suggest that once he hit the big 20 years in power he decided he could bring back the full-scale national festival. These are the same people who can’t help but notice how much money is being spent on a party few people will participate in.
Anyway, it’s nearly noon and I haven’t been out yet. I was supposed to meet a friend this morning – and hopefully take some photos – but I can’t seem to locate him. I’ll be going to a festival party later tonight. Hopefully, I’ll have more news then.
So, Happy National Day Burkina Faso.
Update: Here’s some very quick and dirty outtakes of President Blaise Compaore’s speech to the nation on the event of National Day.
The fourth republic has been noted to be a decisive period of many political changes, with regular elections, functioning harmony among institutions with strong implications for civil society, religious and local authorities. The country has also enlarged personal and collective freedoms and worked constantly for the promotion of economic and social rights....
In an unpredictable international environment, the social dialogue constitutes the ideal voice to bring the appropriate responses regarding the concerns of the population. The permanent search for social peace must guide our daily actions. This is why I salute the open spirit that marks the different dialogue aiming to consolidate our cohesion and elevate the capacities of organization and production for our country....
The theme of the celebration for the 47th anniversary of our independence – Decentralization, Citizenship and Development – comes as we remember that the process of decentralization is an integral guide for the consolidation of democracy and the drive of participatory development.
I invite the elected councils from villages, communes, regions and the assembly of citizens to take full measure of the historic responsibilities that are imposed upon them. The legitimate ambition of Burkina Faso is to be an emerging country in Africa that demands an extensive social and political mobilization.