Wednesday, December 12, 2007

National Day: Final (warm and fuzzy) thoughts

Reflecting on the billboards and other feel-good advertising for the National Day, I must wonder what the government is trying to do. The optimist in me says the Compaore regime is attempting to move beyond the mythology of the Sankara revolution, which is still reflexively popular with people, but has arguably passed its sell-by date of significance. Meaning: The Cold War is over; we’ve got other battles to fight.

Why would he do this? The easy answers are that Compaore took part in a coup d’etat, which however necessary it seemed to be at the time was still illegal. Add in the fact that the major participants in this action found early deaths. And you can’t ignore the fact that it’s not Compaore’s revolution – no matter that Sankara was in prison when it began.

There must be more, though. What’s important to remember is that at the heart of the revolution lies conflict: us versus them; rich versus poor; colonialist versus victim; World Bank vs. Africa.

I am not saying these problems no longer exist. Nor am I saying that most Burkinabé no longer buy into this world-view. As times change, however, language and mythologies must be updated.

I am arguing the government has decided to move beyond these old platitudes. It’s only mildly surprising that they’ve resolved to paint something more inclusive and touchy-feely: good governance, the importance of social dialogue and harmony among the institutions.

The celebration of the state should be seen as a good thing because something else seems to be happening here. During the recent 20th anniversary celebration of the Compaore’s rule, the focus highlighted – of course – Compoare himself and what he built. By painting the state in a higher light than any single person, one must wonder if he’s telling his people it’s also time to move on.

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