Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Burkina turns its back on GM cotton

It seems that Burkina Faso is "ending its love affair" with Genetically Modified cotton, citing its "inferior quality" and the negative effect upon the value of Burkina cotton on the international market.

As a result, the country has begun a complete phase-out of Monsanto's bt cotton and growers are demanding $280 million from the company in compensation for their losses.

The Ecologist quotes a briefing in African Affairs, published by Oxford University Press, saying "Burkinabè cotton was renowned for its high quality, the product of a highly successful non-GM breeding programme" over 70 years. Field trials of GM cotton were initially encouraging. But after commercial release in 2009, "Burkinabè officials noticed declines in staple lengths and ginning ratios"and "by the 2013/14 season over two-thirds of the nation's crop was classified as lower-quality medium staple length."

The Ecologist highlights that a focus on increased yield is deceptive. The yield in Burkina Faso was high, but that the inferior quality meant the cotton was not selling. One official is quoted as saying: "What is the point in being the top producer if you can't even sell your cotton?"

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Burkina Faso Presidential Election Results

Results announced of the Burkina Faso presidential election:

Roch Kabore came first with 53.49%, and Zéphirin Diabré second with 29.65%.

The whole campaign has been run with respect and peace and has brought honour to the country. As one losing candidate says: "It is Burkina Faso that has won!"

Before the results were finalised, it was reported that Diabré had already called Kabore to congratulate him.

So, without the need of a second round, this is the face of the new president of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kabore. Pray for him please.

Good night. I'm off to bed.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Voting Over, Results Beginning to Come In

Voting finished at 21.00 last night in the presidential and legislative elections in Burkina Faso. 5,517,015 people were registered to vote, an increase of 27% on 2012, which indicates that this vote is being taken more seriously, and will be more representative.

Reports indicate that there was a good turnout for election day, that it went off peacefully, and that candidates declared themselves ready to accept the results. Yesterday, I went to the local polling station and everything was quiet and well-ordered with queues snaking round the yard.

So far, with just 21 communes results in, Roch has 49.14%, Diabre has 31.5%, and Sankara has 4.9%. Provisional results are now expected to be officially announced Monday evening, but things are shaping up pretty much as expected, with a possible second round necessary.

You can follow results in real time here: http://www.burkina2015.bf/

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Campaigning is now Closed

Tomorrow is election day. Campaigning - which has generally been considered positive and without problem - has closed. Now 17,160 approved observers (of whom a small group were having lunch across from us in Kaya museum today) are heading out around the country to ensure that the voting will be free and fair. They include about 5,000 observers from Codel, a group of 35 different local civil society organisations, 133 from ECOWAS, and 48 from the EU. Also, 1,719 accredited journalists, of whom 68 are "international"

Following on from yesterday's post, this lefaso.net article gives us some interesting figures from the most recent poll regarding Sunday's presidential election.
According to this poll, Roch leads with 35.6%, Zeph has 26.9%, with Barry now in 3rd place with just 4.5%. 24% are as yet "undecided". Again, the figures suggest a likely run-off election between the two leaders.

Interestingly however, the poll suggests Roch is favourite mostly in rural areas and "among the less-educated", whereas Zeph is favoured in urban areas, and especially among secondary and university-educated voters. This may reflect the fact that, among those without the opportunity to read papers and websites in French, Roch is really the only name they recognise. 

It is also interesting to note that, despite some definite problems (and vocal criticism) during the last year, the president of the transition still has a 73% approval rating! It seems that people feel the transitional government has done its job - maintained democracy, overcome a coup d'etat, and is ready to successfully run the election and step down. According to the poll, 88% say they will accept the result of the election, which holds out hope that fears of violent disupute may be exaggerated. It is great we can look forward with hope to free and fair elections. However, maybe expectations of radical change are not so realistic. 

Please continue to pray for a just and peaceful election and return to democracy. 
CENI, the Independent National Electoral Commission, has committed to announcing the results just one day after the vote. You can follow results here: http://www.burkina2015.bf/

Previous posts:

Friday, 27 November 2015

Who and how to choose?

The Burkina government, society, and media seem to be really pushing for a “free and fair” election. However, it is difficult for most of the population really to know who is the best candidate to vote for. Who has the character? Who has the experience? Who has the best policies? Indeed, what are their policies or their political leanings? Those who seem to have a clear message lack the experience for people to trust them. And those who have the experience have a shadow cast over their character by their involvement for so many years in the Compaore regime.
For the vocal students and intelligentsia in Ouaga, with time, language, and access to newspapers and internet, they can look into such important points – although even then, it is not always easy to unravel.
Otherwise, most people rely on the public meetings of the candidates (and radio reporting of such) as they travel around the country, promising economic development, better hospitals, better schools, better roads, investment in agriculture, fighting against corruption, and ensuring security against terrorism and banditry.
Ultimately, those likely to gain the votes are those with the money, name-recognition (because of their experience – for better or worse), and ability to bus crowds in to hear their promises of a golden future.
In spite of fears of disruption and violence, I expect the elections to be “free and fair”. And I think the parties and population will accept the result. There is a widespread desire to show that Burkina can manage its own affairs and to put behind it the years of corruption and abuse of power. The popular uprisings have shown the Burkinabe people today to be politically aware, motivated, and more mature than many other countries. In this respect, the elections will be democratic, and will show the way for other countries. Things in Burkina have come a long way from the western media image of “the most coup-prone” country in Africa.
But sadly, although the choice of candidate will be a free choice, for many people it will largely be an uninformed choice.
I have asked a few people how they will vote. Here are a few responses:
·      “Roch, because he says he will help us with our field and animals and schools”
·      “I don’t really know any of them apart from Roch and, um, what’s his name – Zephirim”
·      “Anyone but Roch – a vote for Roch is a vote for Blaise”
·      “Roch, because he is from our family group”
·      “I don’t know – I will pray on the day and see who I have peace to vote for”
Of course, many people’s reasons for choosing a candidate in the UK or US may not be more sophisticated than this!
Burkina is investing in educating her children, but is starting from the back of the block. And for education to affect the direction of the country, it takes the time it takes a child to grow and become a decision-maker. Investment in the education of Burkina’s children is vital to raise up an informed electorate.
In the end, if polls are to be believed, it seems things will go to a second round, with a run-off between Roch and Zeph, with Sankara holding the balance, which will probably mean Roch getting voted in.
Getting rid of Compaore has finally brought an opportunity for change. The voice of the people will be heard, and the next president will be the people’s choice. But is he really what the people want? Will this truly be a time of change for Burkina? Or will it be more of the same?

Saturday, 21 November 2015

BF Presidential Elections - the other candidates

With 14 candidates for the presidential elections on Nov 29, and the field so dominated by just two candidates, who are the others, and why are they running?

A few are well-known, long-standing opponents of the previous regime who have been campaigning for change and offer an alternative (for better or worse) to business as usual. Others are unknowns, who stand no chance of being elected. It may be that they are trying to make themselves known, positioning themselves as power-brokers in the event of a run-off, or for future political influence. Or, more cynically, it has been suggested some could just be in it for the 25 million cfa (about £30,000) given by the government for each presidential candidate to help them run their campaigns!

Here are some very short sketches of some of the better-known other candidates:

Bénéwendé S. Sankara (UNIR / PS). Sankara is a lawyer who has stood against Compaore’s regime for 15 years, running twice against him in presidential elections. He was third-placed in a recent poll, with 8%. Sankara represents a group of « Sankarist » parties, promoting the values espoused by ex-president Thomas Sankara, killed in a coup d’etat in 1997, (though he is not actually related). Preceived as the « defender of lost causes », he has been a key lawyer in the investigation of both the Norbert Zongo affair and the Thomas Sankara dossier. He claims that he played a key role in the insurrection against Compaore that brought people onto the steets and resulted in Compaore’s downfall.

Saran Sérémé (PDC) is one of two women seeking the presidency, A businesswoman who moved into politics, Sérémé left the CDP in 2012, and moved into opposition. In 2014, she helped organise a women's march ("the revolt of spatulas”) against Compaore’s proposed constitutional amendment., and became the face of the revolt that brought his downfall. She was suggested as a possible president for the transitional government.

Tahirou Barry (PAREN). Another lawyer, another long-standing opponent and thorn in the flesh of ex-president Compaore. Even in his youth, he got himslef arrested after he infiltrated the committee discussing bringing the African Nations Cup to Burkina in 1998, denouncing "the madness of injecting billions into a game when the vast majority of the population languishes in poverty". He  worked as a journalist then lawyer, and also did teaching at the university before being selected as president of the party PAREN

Ram Ouédraogo (RDEBF). Founder of the first Green party of Burkina, Ram was a Compaore minister 1999, then MP, before leaving to create his party in 2005. He ran against Compaore twice in presidential elections, but gained only 2% of the vote in 2005.

Ablassé Ouédraogo (Faso Autrement):  A previous minister of Foreign Affairs in Compaore’s government from 1994-1999, Ouedraogo is a recognised economist. He subsequently worked in various international institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, and then became a mediator in various African crises. His party, Faso Autrement, describes itself as « centrist liberal ». He was heavily criticised for saying that two of the best reasons for him to become president were that he is Mossi and that he is a Muslim. This led to calls to not make the election about race or religion.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

BF Presidential Election - the Front-Runners

 Of the 14 presidential candidates, the two seen as front-runners are Roch (“Le Roc”) Kaboré (MPP) and Zephirin (“Zeph”) Diabré (UPC), each with about 25% of the electorate in a pre-campaign poll. If no one candidate gains a majority of the vote, run-off elections will be held around Dec. 13.
(See Backround to the Elections for some basics on the forthcoming elections on 29 November)

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.  (MPP)
“Roch” was part of ex-president Blaise Campaore’s government for many years, including a stint as Prime Minister. 

In 2014, opposed to Campaore’s bid to change the constitution to gain a third term, he left, together with two other of Campaore’s right-hand men: Salif Diallo and Simon Campaore, to form their MPP party. Their experience in government is seen by some as a plus. However, others consider their links with Campaore’s regime, including rumours of torture and corruption, to be a hindrance, and regard them with suspicion as late-comers to opposition at a time when they perceived the Campaore ship to be already sinking.   

Many think a clearer break with the past is needed. Describing themselves as “social democrats”, they have the support of 17 smaller parties, which may, in the event of a run-off, swing things in their direction.

Zephirin (“Zeph”) Diabré. (UPC)
“Zeph” was also in Campaore’s government, variously as minister of the departments of Commerce, Industry, and Finance before leaving in 1999 to take key roles in UNDP in New York, and then Areva. 

He formed his opposition party in 2010, and has been the leader of the opposition since January 2013.  Thus, although he has been in the previous regime, he is seen as being less tied to the Campaore years than Le Roc, which might work in his favour. Describing his party as “social liberal”, he is more of a free market supporter than Le Roc. 

Although supported by 10 minor parties, in the event of a run-off, some have suggested that Zeph would lose out because many of the other parties have a more socialist leaning and would tend to favour the MPP.