“The real question is whether it was the elites who betrayed the peoples”

Serge Bambara, alias Smockey, at Fespaco, in Ouagadougou, in February 2017.

It is impossible to dissociate the artist Smockey from the citizen Serge Bambara. For the Burkinabe rapper and co-founder of Balai Citoyen, a civil society movement, artistic commitment and political struggle are synonymous. On October 2 and 3, he presented Guinea fowl Syndrome at the Les Zébrures d’automne festival in Limoges. A hard-hitting rapped piece, in which he curls up the elites (the “Guinea fowl”) that the silent majority (the “Hens” to whom we entrust the eggs of the guinea fowl, bad incubator).

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The one who played a decisive role in the fall of Blaise Compaoré in 2014 is once again calling the henhouses to revolt. A few weeks before the legislative and presidential elections of November 22 in Burkina Faso, Smockey is about to release a new title, Noble rot. He vigorously denounces the patronage and corruption that undermine the political and social life of his country.

Your room Guinea fowl Syndrome represents, you say, the evil of the elites. But which elites are you talking about?

These are those whose words count, or can count, in the media. Whether it is politicians, intellectuals or representatives of large institutions. They all betrayed the popular masses. But, in fact, the real question is whether it is these elites who betrayed the peoples or if it is the peoples themselves who do not assume their role as citizens and checks and balances. This is one of the problems of this century, especially since we have social media.

Social networks do not allow mobilization?

Social networks take away responsibility. They can mobilize when a piece of information is entertaining but, when it requires an effort and calls for a minimum of commitment, usually you click “like” and it stops there. This is what experience has shown us. In 2014, very few people were mobilized via social networks. Those who moved were the grassroots activists with whom we had close relations.

How to transform the 2014 trial and bring the process to a successful conclusion?

It is absolutely necessary to refresh the political offer, to motivate a large part of the youth and women, to train them from an ideological and political point of view, so that they are involved in this process. The Citizen’s Broom has signed an agreement with the Parliament, Alliance of young people and parliamentarians, to interest a little more than 200 young people from eight regions in the parliamentary question. More than half of the participants now want to get involved in politics.

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The Citizen Broom will not turn into a political party?

No, the Citizen’s Broom will not be a political party. And will not present candidates for election. We saw what happened to the Podemos, in Spain, and we learned the lessons. We found other ways to dive into the water without getting wet [rires]. We will see the result in a few years. We are sowing the seeds to put an end to this political class linked to the former Compaoré regime.

What do the upcoming elections represent in this transition process?

This is one more step, but nothing extraordinary is expected because the ruling party and some opposition parties have been entrenched in national politics for too long. But I like to think that a jerk, or at least perceived as such by the elites, can get through. It wouldn’t be bad. That would be a hell of a snub to history and the dice that seem to be thrown.

How to fight terrorism? Should we, as the government advocates, train civilians and arm them?

This is obviously not the right solution because you never know how it can turn out. And it went wrong, by the way. The koglweogo [« gardiens de la brousse »] could be created because there was a total absence of so-called law enforcement forces in these areas and the populations felt threatened. They were forced to do justice themselves. This is proof that the state is not a state. In a month, the people will have the possibility of sanctioning or of renewing the policies which do not serve more than two terms. This is already good news. We can finally change the system!

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How do you see what is happening in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea where the current presidents are running for a third term?

There is a third term syndrome. But I have the impression that Ivorian youth have really given up on the struggle. Unlike Burkina Faso, which has a fairly intense political history, there is little political awareness. And the ethnic question, as in Guinea, is often put forward. It is an extremely dangerous landslide.

In your play, a character says, “We are to be the center of ourselves and not the periphery of others. “Is Africa still too dependent?

What matters today is the question of endogenous development. Joseph Ki-Zerbo [historien et homme politique] said: “We do not develop, we develop. “In the relational balance that must exist today with the rest of the world, we must have our part to play. And that we have a central role when it comes to our own future and our own development. We cannot lie on other people’s mats and be free.

France has announced the end of the CFA franc, the return of works of art stolen during colonization, the extradition of François Compaoré… Do you see in this the sign of an evolution in France-Africa relations?

There were these announcements, indeed, but we are waiting to see the concrete facts. To this day, François Compaoré has still not been extradited. When Emmanuel Macron came to Ouagadougou in 2017, we insisted on this point and on the declassification of the Sankara archives. We are waiting for strong acts which suggest that we have come out of this Françafrique “straitjacket”.

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