Burkina Faso’s war against Islamist militants has seen security forces criticized for human rights abuses. Now, the battle to win hearts and minds has moved to a new stage, with soldiers using their singing talents to promote the armed forces.
Police Sergeant Yacouba Sourabié, known by his stage name “General Yack,” is one of 15 Burkinabe soldiers who sing about battlefield life, loss, and fighting the enemy.
In a cramped recording booth in Ouagadougou, Sourabié sings into a microphone about heading to war and leaving family and friends behind.
Singing soldiers, like Sourabié, hope their music videos will win public support in the war against Islamist militants and put the military in a better light.
He says, the song is dedicated to our soldiers, our defense and security forces, who are on the frontlines and even those who have lost their lives. He says, we have dedicated this song to our soldiers, to make them understand that they are our heroes, they are valiant men of the nation, and for their families to be encouraged because families have lost their brothers and men on the frontline.
Burkinabé director San RemyTraoré was motivated to make music videos with security forces because his brother is a policeman.
He also wants to encourage greater confidence in the military.
He says, the first priority is to show the force of the soldiers on the terrain in this battle. But it’s also to assure the population so they understand they can count on the people on the battlefield, who are there to defend the national cause.
But critics say security forces should focus less on promoting fighting and more on respecting civilians’ rights.
The Collective Against Impunity and Stigmatization of Communities (CISC) documents abuses committed by the armed forces, like the alleged killing of 180 civilians around the northern city of Djibo documented by Human Rights Watch. The government said it would investigate the incident more than a year ago.
Daouda Diallo of CISC acknowledges that soldiers have faced heavy losses in their battle against militants.
And this kind of music can boost the morale of the troops, he says. But on the other hand, he adds, one must also consider human rights and the respect for social cohesion between the community and all Burkinabé citizens.
For gendarme duo LaCrew, their latest song, The Patriot, is about all of society fighting terrorism.
"We invite all our brothers in arms," says LaCrew. "All the population to come to together, to be strong to overcome this evil. It’s a song of encouragement that puts adrenaline in the blood of one and all to claim victory against this evil."
The final refrain of the song is, “we will not move, we are here.”
And it seems Burkina Faso’s soldier singers are here to stay.