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Written By: Nana Yaw Sam
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph” – Emperor Haile Sellasie
I’m a news junkie and as such, a subscriber for news alerts from the BBC. So when I received an alert yesterday morning with the headline, “Burkina Faso coup: Michel Kafando ‘back in charge’”, I began asking myself the following question–Does Ghana have or perhaps still have brave citizens who will rise and fight on the basis of justice irrespective of the consequences?
Just about a year ago, this picture of Lassina Sawadogo went viral, reason? simple. Lassina was one of thousands of protesters who stood up one morning in the quiet city of Ouagadougou to oppose an attempt by the then-president BlaiseCompaorés government to amend the constitution, which would enable Compaore to extend his 27-year rule beyond the stipulated time of November 2015. After storming parliament and setting it ablaze, the protesters made their way onto the premises of the state broadcaster to demonstrate their wrath. Security forces fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse and control the crowd, however the protesters surged on. That was when the man who will later on become a hero of the uprising, came face-to-face with two soldiers. He could have retreated at that instance, but in heroic fashion, Lassina, who was armed with nothing but courage, hope and patriotism took on the soldiers, made history and became a hero.
The events that followed meant that the populace had withstood President BlaiseCompaorés ‘nonsense’ long enough and ultimately wanted a taste of democratic rule. The heat became unbearable for the leader, who 27 years earlier had ousted out of power the Marxist and Pan-Africanist Thomas Sankara– a man who trusted Compaoré more than any other person. Yes! Within 48hrs of the protests, BlaiseCompaoré resigned. This wasn’t a military coup d’état, but an uprising by the people and for the people. Following BlaiseCompaorés exit, an Interim President in the person of Michel Kafando was tasked to lead the poor nation’s democratic transition and hold elections in a year.
With barely a month to the elections, a close ally of former President Compaoré, General Gilbert Diendere, with the aid of the presidential guards (locally known as RSP) seized power in a coup– a move condemned by many. Thereafter, the interim President and his Prime Minister Isaac Zida were detained by RSP during a meeting at the presidential palace. The RSP was set up by former President Compaoré after the overthrow of Thomas Sankara and are therefore seen as loyal forces to the former. Thus, when a new electoral law that seeks to ban candidates linked to the attempt to tilt the constitution in Blaise’s favour came up, they felt betrayed.
But once again in familiar unison as experienced last year, citizens of the ‘Land of Honest Men’ (the literal translation of Burkina Faso), stood up and resisted the coup amidst days of street protests, which left 10 people dead and 100 injured in clashes with the RSP. The bravery of the protesters, and further interventions by the army, has restored sanity. Both the president and prime minister, who were detained, have since been released.
And within that very notification I received from BBC NEWS, the freed interim president said, “We are proud of the mobilization and fearlessness of the people of Burkina Faso, in particular of its youth, whose determination has stopped the coup from succeeding”. This statement makes me feel proud as a citizen who once upon a time stood up against injustices in my own small way. Overall, it seems that Ghanaians are generally regarded as timid and reserved people, of which persons in leadership positions nationwide continuously take advantage, intimidate and mete out various forms of injustices to its people, with corruption being the prime.
In fact, sometime last year, I decided to rise and resist some injustices in the organization I worked for, even though I was clearly aware of the consequences that awaited me. Working as a civil servant in Ghana means you obey your superiors with no complains or what so ever (the culture of silence is still eminent in government institutions), so in an organization where you only get promoted based on your ethnicity and not competency, no one dared speak up. When superiors sexually harassed and abused subordinates, intimidation and oppression were used to cover up such evil acts. Laws and regulations on procurement of goods and services were treated with total disregard. I decided to challenge the status quo; I spoke and stood against all those wrong doings. I did fight the injustice eventually, but the result? I got my ass kicked out as the Americans say.
When Sulley Muntari, decided to fight the injustice within the Black Stars camp in Brazil, many turned against him, including most of his team mates. As usual, the so-called timid nature of the Ghanaian came into play. Trust me, with what I have observed in Burkina Faso over the past year, it would have been a different story for the camp of the Burkinabe soccer team. Martin Amidu’s solo intervention, which also saved the nation several millions which otherwise would have ended up in the pockets of just a handful of people, rather resulted in him losing his job as a minister of state. Simply put, we live in a country where when you decide to rise against and put a stop to injustice, you get victimised for those heroic instincts.
But wait, the bravery I’m talking about isn’t what had been exhibited in all those protest marches since the days of ‘KumiPreko’ until the most recent one, ‘Let my vote count’. In all those instances, protesters dispersed once the security agencies ‘charged’ and got ruthless. Mind you, I’m not in any way condoning lawlessness but rather fearlessness for a just cause or course of justice.
In the manner with which the likes of Lassina Sawadogo, AnasAremeyawAnas and those yet to be noticed have defied all odds and injustices, I will urge and task the youth of Ghana, to defend and uphold the good name of this country in every little space they find themselves. Once we succeed in doing that, it is then and only then, that we can unite as citizens and fight for the good course of justice irrespective of the consequences.
ARISE GHANA YOUTH FOR YOUR COUNTRY, THE NATION DEMANDS YOUR DEVOTION!!