In mid-September, Luc Adolphe Tiao, the last prime minister of Burkina Faso’s former president, Blaise Compaore, became the first official to be jailed for the shootings of unarmed demonstrators during the popular insurrection that ousted Compaore in 2014. Tiao, who was believed to have signed an order authorizing troops to fire into huge crowds of protesters two years ago, was formally indicted on murder charges and taken into custody. With Compaore in exile in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire, beyond the immediate reach of Burkina Faso’s courts, it has taken nearly two years for anyone in his government to be locked up for those shootings.
Demands for justice for the “martyrs” of the insurrection have been widespread since Compaore was ousted, with many wondering why no one had yet been tried. The day that Tiao was indicted, Sept. 16, was the anniversary of a failed military coup attempt last year by Compaore loyalists. The government of President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, who was elected last November, organized a commemoration in the capital, Ouagadougou, but relatives of those killed by security forces during the insurrection and the coup attempt boycotted the official ceremony. They held their own instead, with chants of “Justice!”
Calls for justice and democracy were also at the heart of the popular movement that drove out Compaore, whose authoritarian reign lasted 27 years. After his removal, the establishment of a transitional government under then-President Michel Kafando provided new openings for activists, reformers and human rights advocates to push not only for a more genuinely democratic system, but also the prosecution of those responsible for the worst abuses.