By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Bishops of Burkina Faso have outlined conditions necessary for guaranteeing peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections in the nation scheduled for 22 November. They are also encouraging citizens to peacefully exercise their civic rights by going to the polls to vote.
Making reference to Pope John XXIII, the bishops, in a message on Sunday said, “voting is one of the pillars of all democratic institutions and one of the guarantees of the sustainability of democracy.” Therefore, they enjoin citizens to choose, through a democratic process, “worthy leaders who will preside over [Burkina Faso’s] destiny to lead it towards an ever-brighter future.”
To ensure peaceful elections, the bishops insist on the conditions of protecting the lives of people and their property, generous service, gaining maturity and working to make the country a land of integrity and a united nation.
The bishops' message comes as the country, located in the volatile Sahel region, struggles with insecurity made worse by frequent insurgencies linked to ISIL and other extremist groups.
Insecurity amid ongoing pandemic
Highlighting the nation’s security concerns amid the ongoing pandemic, the bishops noted that in some regions in the North and East of the country, thousands of people are persecuted, dispossessed of their lands and forced to be refugees in their homeland.
The bishops, therefore, expressed their gratitude to security forces who “are fighting day and night to guarantee the security of their brothers and sisters” and prayed for those who have sacrificed their lives. They also saluted the bravery and dedication of health personnel who, in spite of the insecurity, still provide medical services.
Appeal to government and citizens
Calling on political office holders, those desirous of political office and citizens, the bishops made several appeals as the country inches closer to its election day.
First, they called for the protection of the lives and properties of people. Especially during the elections, the bishops stress the importance of avoiding any initiative that would “contribute to worsening the security situation” or “endanger the lives of the people, the organizers of the elections or the voters.”
“The supreme value is life and no effort must be spared in protecting it,” the bishops insisted.
Stressing that power and authority are given for the service of all, the bishops warned that “no one can or should claim to serve the nation by violating the rights of those he or she is supposed to serve.” In this light, the conquest of power should not trample on essential values and freedoms of citizens.
Recalling that the political history of Burkina Faso has been marked by various crises including the popular uprising of October 2014, the bishops noted that through "the spirit of dialogue and concertation" the nation has overcome its challenges. They, therefore, called on all citizens to continue to gain maturity which will lead the people to elect leaders who will promote peace by "working for justice and reconciliation."
“The history of our country is that of a people who have always known how to make the cultural, ethnic and religious differences that characterize its citizens, a source of wealth and an example of cohesion in the eyes of the world,” the bishops said. Therefore, rather than seeing the difficult times “every citizen should invest and take pride in working for the good of all, for the honour of the country.”
Concluding, the bishops called for prayers for the country and urged every citizen to commit themselves to working towards security and peace through a democratic process characterized by transparency and integrity.
On 22 November, eligible Burkinabe citizens will elect a president and 127 members of the nation's National Assembly. Incumbent President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré who has been in power since 2015 is seeking reelection for a second five-year term. Campaigns for the presidential and parliamentary elections began on Saturday and are expected to last for 21 days.