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Mayors Begin Campaigns in Burkina Faso


Campaigning has officially started for local elections in Burkina Faso. With no change in national leadership for nearly 20 years, mayors have become increasingly relevant in local development issues.

On April 23, Burkinabes will go to the polls to choose who will lead their local districts.

A spokesman for the national election commission, Arsene Kabore says these elections will make a difference for people locally.

"These elections are very important for Burkina Faso and the Burkinabe," he said. "It concerns citizens directly, because they are voting for the delegates of their district. Every district will be ruled by a kind of council, which will decide what to do for this district."

More than a million of Burkina Faso's citizens live in the capital, Ouagadougou. Its mayor, Simon Compaore, who is not a relative of President Blaise Compaore, will try to defend his post as a member of the president's party.

He says he has already achieved a lot and this will be rewarded by the electorate.

"We have done so many things. Maybe, some are bad, but most of them are appreciated by the people of Ouagadougou. They like those who build, but not those who destroy," said Compaore.

The U.N. Human Development Index ranks Burkina Faso as the third poorest country in the world, with 80 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day.

The main challenger in the Ouagadougou race is Joseph Ouedraogo, who is standing for the Union for Renewal Sankarist Movement, a party upholding the Marxist values of former president Thomas Sankara, who was executed when Mr. Compaore came to power.

Ouedraogo says that voters have an opportunity to change the situation in Burkina Faso.

He says that he is convinced that his supporters and the people of Burkina Faso will be able to reverse the current situation. He says, he hopes the elections will be peaceful, democratic and transparent.

Burkinabe journalist Zoumana Wonogo says local elections are relevant, as Burkina Faso is highly decentralized.

"[As the mayor] of a little village, you can decide to build a school, to build a hospital and all the things you should. You can develop your district as you want. No instructions will come from the capital," he noted.

According to local journalists, only two million of the seven million eligible voters have registered for the poll. Wonogo thinks this reflects, what he calls, widespread disillusionment with politicians.

"The population is disappointed," he explained. "People say the politicians are always thieving, robbing and lying. They do not believe what politicians say. They say that if they can change anything, I will not put my hand in [get involved]."

At the national level, Burkina Faso's President Compaore has been in power since a coup in 1987. He has since won presidential elections in 1991, 1998 and 2005. The president holds most of the power and appoints the government.