No amnesty for assassins, says Burkina Faso civil rights leader

No amnesty for assassins, says Burkina Faso civil rights leader©AFP PHOTO / AHMED OUOBA
Smockey (left) and reggae singer Sams K Le Jah at August 2013 launch of Le Balais Citoyen movement
2 min 52Approximate reading time

Rapper and activist Serge Bambara, alias Smockey, was one of the first to condemn the September 16 coup by Burkina Faso’s presidential guard (RSP). He is leader of civil society group Le Balais citoyen (“Sweep it out”) and was also in the frontline of October 2014 demonstrations that pushed long-time former president Blaise Compaoré to leave office. Smockey slams the idea of an amnesty for the coup leaders in exchange for a return to the transition process, as put forward in a draft crisis proposal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in an emergency meeting in Abuja.

As everyone awaits the outcome of that meeting, Smockey spoke to JusticeInfo.Net. In the capital Ouagadougou, the regular army and elements of the RSP were holding their positions, without clashing so far. People have been advised to stay at home. Clashes between civil society demonstrators and the RSP have so far left about a dozen people dead and 100 injured since the beginning of the crisis.

JusticeInfo.Net: Smockey, your movement is quite popular, notably amongst young people. What have you been saying to your activists and supporters lately, in view of the recent events?

Smockey: We have urged them to put their trust in the regular army, but also to stay vigilant, to maintain the protests and the pressure. We cannot accept an ECOWAS decision that would allow the assassins to get off free. We have alerted the international community. The will of the people cannot be ignored. The people of Burkina Faso cannot accept an amnesty for assassins of their people. And they will also not accept that the assassins’ accomplices be allowed to participate in elections that the people have fought for. (Editor’s note: the draft ECOWAS agreement provides for members of the CDP, party of former president Blaise Compaoré, to participate in presidential and legislative elections).

JusticeInfo.Net: You have mentioned the proposed amnesty for the coup leaders. In your view, is that the point of the ECOWAS draft agreement that you most object to?

Smockey: Yes. It’s definitely one of the most controversial points, even if it is not the only one. It is in any case the one that causes most pain. They are asking people to forget that their children have died, the children who took to the streets bare-breasted to face the bullets, the Kalachnikovs and the sophisticated weaponry of the RSP. Those people have no mercy. I was also one of their victims (Editor’s note: Smockey’s recording studio was attacked on September 17). Houses have been burned, people persecuted and put on death lists. They have terrorized the population. They have really behaved like thugs!

JusticeInfo.Net: Do you think the unexplained murders in the country, such as the disappearance of journalist Norbert Zongo in 1998, have influenced the position of players in the current crisis?

Smockey: Absolutely. There has always been a problem to get justice. It is said there are hundreds of unresolved crimes dating from the time of Compaoré. Impunity rules, and has become the scourge of our society. How can we progress when people think they can do anything with total impunity? It is time to put a definitive end to that

JusticeInfo.Net: Do you think it is still possible to reach a favourable agreement with the RSP?

Smockey: I don’t know. But I cannot forget that they are our brothers and they have families. I hope they also think about that. Diendéré is leading them on a path of murderous madness from which there may be no return. We have called on the population not to attack members of the RSP, to let them hand themselves over to the regular army as proposed by the army chief. We call on their relatives and all their families to help us bring them back to reason. We urge them to put the interests of the country above their own personal and partisan interests.

JusticeInfo.Net: Some analysts fear a civil war. Is that something that you also could envisage?

Smockey: No. I do not think that my country will sink into civil war. I have confidence in our people. I have confidence in most of the movements in the country which can more or less see reason. This is a clash between the regular army, which we support and which wants to stop an assault on the Republic, and corrupt, criminal elements of the military. But I am convinced that the people will not allow themselves to be trampled underfoot. We are sufficiently wise not to allow that.