Pres Kabore under spotlight as Burkina Faso goes to the polls

On November 22, 2020, the people of Burkina Faso go to the polls in a twin election that will elect a President and members of the legislative assembly to steer the affairs of their country for the next five years.

 Key among the issues the electorate will be considering as they seek to mortgage their destinies to the political class for the next five years will be security, healthcare, education, agriculture, infrastructure development, energy and social services in general.

These issues are key and likely to take precedence over all other considerations. However, beyond these, the spotlight will be on the first five-year term of the current President, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who is seeking a re-election alongside  12 other candidates.

While emphasis is likely to be on his general performance in terms of promoting the general wellbeing of his people, the main consideration, going into the elections, will be on how he has steered the country out of troubled waters over the period.

Even though Roch Marc Christian Kaboreasked to be President, what he did not bargain for, is the sudden and unexpected eruption of terrorist activities that have become the Achilles Heel of the regime and as the chairman of thePeople’s Movement for Progress (MPP),the party on whose ticket he is running, Simon Campaore puts it: ” From 2015 to 2020  has been five years of all kinds of challenges taken up under President Kabore’s five-year term,” goes to emphasise the point that security has indeed been a hydra-headed challenge that the administration have had to deal with.

Challenges are a natural sequel to political power and that is why perhaps, many view the ascension of President Kabore to the presidency in 2015 as an act of providence – for he was destined to be the one to lead them out of the unchartered waters and propel the people to the attainment of their aspirations following the popular uprising that deposed President Bless Campaore.

“From the sudden and unexpected eruption of terrorism to the dawn of MPP governance through the frontal intrusion of COVID-19 destabilizing our socio-economic foundations and social rebellion never equalled in our country, we can say without risk of being mistaken that Burkina Faso has passed through all the states,”  the party chairman said.

Never has the resilience and tenacity of a people been put on display as demonstrated by the people of Burkina Faso over the last five years. In the spirit reminiscent of the 1983 revolution spearheaded by Captain Thomas Sankara, President Kabore has rekindled patriotism and the ‘can do’ spirit among the vast majority of the people.

The last five years has witnessed the roll-out of the most ambitious programme of action intended to reform and transform Burkina Faso into a model state which will enable it take its place among the comity of nations.

With emphasis on security, education, energy, agriculture, infrastructure development, health and public sector reforms, the programme was aimed at transiting the country from its unenviable status in the sub-region to a place where it can become a model for the new Africa.

Against all odds, the “land of upright men” is set on a trajectory that is leading towards the attainment of its aspirations as encapsulated in all facets of its social and cultural life –  thanks to the bold and decisive leadership of President Kabore”.

Security

Despite the daunting security challenges which are also seen as a clever sabotage and manoeuvres to derail the government and its programme of action within the last five years, the resolve of the government and its people towards the attainment of their greater aspiration remains unwavered. If “Security is the Achilles Heel of the government of President Kaboré, then it equally remains its forte.”

In the words of the chairman of the MPP, Simon Campaore, the clever manoeuvres were clearly set out to ensure that, the government did not succeed. However, that has not been the situation, the President has held his own against all odds, demonstrated resilience and carried the people along with him to confront the twin-monster of terrorism and COVID-19.

The Minister of Defence, Chérif Sy, himself a former journalist, explains that security and stabilisation of the country remain a collective top priority and much has been done towards that. Mr Sy parries off the negative slant often put on Burkina Faso by the Western media to create a sense of insecurity in the country, stressing that “It is a strategy of the terrorists to divide us.”  To him, the surest way of winning the war is “human” development.

Infrastructure

President Kabore’s new 2020-2025 programme revolves around 10 projects that he will unveil soon. Naturally several sectors of the previous programme will be developed and reinforced. It will be continuity while improving the achievements of the first term. Under the National Economic and Social Development Plan (PNDES), the first five-year term of President Kabore has seen great strides made in infrastructure.

It is important to emphasize that the proportion of paved roads in the country has witnessed dramatic improvement, rising from 24per cent in 2015 to 26.72per cent in 2019, exceeding the target of 26.1 per cent. In all, about 360 km of new roads have been paved over the period with about 280 km getting rehabilitated.

Several hundred kilometres of roads are currently being built or rehabilitated. Among the commitments of the President is the fact that about 2,033 km of rural tracks have been developed between 2016 and 2020, while 712 kilometres are in progress of being developed. Among the strategic projects launched during the five-year term was the realization of the launch of the Ouagadougou bypass in October 2018.

In addition to road infrastructure were the construction of bridges, which has led to the construction of the longest bridge in the annals of the country. The Sirba Bridge-the longest, with a span of 309metres and theBoromo Mixed Bridge, on the Mouhoun River are but the few of such developments.

Energy

In November 2017, a new solar plant with the capacity to generate 33 megawatts of power was inaugurated at Zagtouli in the Central Region of Ouagadougou. The government, in the last five years, has demonstrated its determination to increase its energy needs through diversifying the sources of generation. Influenced largely by this is the grand industrialization agenda of the government. It is estimated that between 2015 and 2020, Burkina Faso increased its installed capacity from 300mega watts to 410mega watts.

The establishment of National Agency for Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency (ANEREE) in 2016 pointed to the direction in which the government of President Kabore was heading in terms of its industrialization agenda. The ANEREE has as its objective, to increase the installed capacity of the country to 497mega watts ultimately.

Currently, the country’s electricity coverage has increased from 33.32 per cent in 2015 to 38.68 per cent in 2019.

Agriculture

 Burkina Faso is set to go into the production of cocoa in commercial quantities and this feat can be classified as one of the nine wonders of the 21st century. Even though advancement in science and technology makes anything possible, such a feat by a third world country located in Sub-Sahara Africa cannot be over-looked.

Largely, cocoa thrives in the tropical rain forest and not in areas with the characteristics of the dry savannah conditions like persist in Burkina Faso. The breakthrough only affirms the strong leadership provided by the government led by President Kabore. Beyond the landmark breakthrough, agriculture in its generality has received much support over the last five years with emphasis on agric-mechanisation. The Dande mechanization project is just but one of the main areas of investment towards increased productivity. The project was started in 2016 and covers the regions of high basins and waterfalls.

“Since 2018, we have started and we have it for 6 years; our funding is 110 billion CFA francs; In DANDE, we accompanied the women with the by-products of aces to the markets; we provide them with inputs, advisory support … up to almost 4 million to produce; they transform before putting on the market. Note that they supplied school canteens,” KoadimaIssa, head of the support project for the promotion of agricultural sectors at the Bobo unit level, explained.

Upstream, not less than 14 new dams, including that of Samendéni, strategic dam with the capacities of 1.5 billion cubic meters, have been built, with 25 others rehabilitated.

Information Communications Technology (ICT)

In the area of Information Communication Technology, some significant results have been achieved following five years of the implementation of public action in the development of digital infrastructure.

For example, the country’s international internet bandwidth capacity has seen significant improvement, moving from 12Gbps in 2016 to 46.36 Gbps in June 2020. As a result, internet penetration also increased to 36.81% at the end of June 2020 from the initial 6% in 2015.

Largely, the improvement has been underpinned by competition between the country’s mobile network operators, the improvement in the capacities of the virtual landing point (PAV), the development of mobile Internet offered by the 2G, 3G and 4G technologies of the three operators.

Furthermore, there are efforts to network the territory with fibre   optic lines, including 861.8 km deployed in 2019 and 3,408.8 km since 2016.

Conclusion

Burkina Faso is at the crossroad as it goes to the polls on November 22 and the choice is for the electorate to make. However, the choice they make will greatly determine the future of the country.

Despite the twin-challenge of treat to national security and COVID-19 that the government of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore have had to deal with, strong leadership has been demonstrated. The regime has achieved a lot, particularly in the area of health care, education, agriculture, energy and infrastructure development.

However, in spite of these successes chalked, the quest to retain power will be determined solely by the electorate who are cloaked with the power to determine which direction they want to see their country go in the next five years. The odds favour the incumbent, however, any act of complacency will affect their chances of retaining power. It is indeed a decision making regarding the future of Burkina Faso.

By Cliff Ekuful, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

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