Africa Hope and dismay in Burkina’s burned-out second city

Hope and dismay in Burkina’s burned-out second city

Bobo-Dioulasso City
Bobo-Dioulasso City

At a roundabout in the centre of Burkina Faso’s second city of Bobo-Dioulasso, a statue of the late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi now stands alone, watching over an endless stream of backfiring motorbikes.

Kadhafi’s likeness once stood alongside that of Burkina’s long-standing president Blaise Compaore, but some of the protesters that helped end his 27-year rule last week came along and tore it down. 

From his small kiosk in front of Place Blaise-Kadhafi, Sibre Yameogo watched on Thursday as the huge bronze statue was pushed over by a group of young men with their bare hands. 

There was great joy when it fell, he says, “and they kept hitting the statue with their sticks afterwards.”

An hour later, city authorities came to recover the toppled effigy, leaving Kadhafi solo in his sunglasses and Bedouin headdress to look over Place Blaise-Kadhafi. 

The town of Bobo-Dioulasso has seen a spasm of violence over the past week, mirroring events in the capital Ougadougou, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) away.

“We watch what is happening there. Then it comes here,” said Adama Salou, a 28-year-old local.

Just as the parliament building was stormed and set ablaze in Ougadougou, so the town hall in Bobo-Dioulasso was set on fire. 

The burned-out shells of two cars lie in the approach to the house of mayor Salia Sano, which has also been gutted by fire. 

“When the people came on Thursday, they burned everything,” says Sano’s son, Hamed, a 37-year-old scrap merchant. “These guys came for political reasons, but the next day the looters arrived.”


– Worse than disaster – 

It looks as though a hurricane has torn through the court complex in central Bobo. Half a dozen buildings and many more vehicles are blackened wrecks. 

“I was on the frontline — people didn’t agree with burning down the courthouse,” said Adama Salou, who works in a hotel. “But the delinquents had their way.”

One employee surveyed the mess and the grey remains of hundreds of documents blowing in the wind.

“If there was a word stronger than disaster…” she said. 

“Specific places were targeted: the prosecutor’s office, the district court. 

“They have only hurt themselves. Now, it will be impossible to get anything. The courthouse is closed.”

Calm returned on Saturday, a day after Compaore fled the country, but not for long.

With the military announcing it had taken power, there were fresh protests on Sunday. 

“People were panicking a little with the military not wanting to give up power,” said one local, Alexandre Bayala, 38. “We wonder if the army is going to work for the people or not.” 

Meanwhile, the site of the town hall has become a playground for children, who laugh and play among the ruins. 

One is picking through the rubble looking for scrap to sell, but all he turns up are a few bits of copper wire and a couple of plastic boxes. 

“There’s nothing left,” he says. “They destroyed everything.”


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