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Burkina Faso’s Bishops Outline Four Conditions for Peaceful November Elections

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN).

Catholic Bishops in Burkina Faso have outlined four conditions that could guarantee peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections in the West African nation slated to take place on November 22.

In their November 1 statement shared with ACI Africa, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Burkina Faso and Niger (CEBN) call on the elections stakeholders to collectively work toward ensuring “lasting security and peace”

The four conditions include the protection of people and their property, selfless service, gaining maturity, and making Burkina Faso truly a land of integrity.

Addressing the need to protect people and their property, CEBN members note that “human life is sacred and no effort must be spared to protect it.”

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“The preservation of life and the physical, mental, and moral integrity of persons remains a priority,” they say and add, “During this election period, no initiative should contribute to worsening the security situation or endanger the lives of the population, the organizers of these elections or the voters.”

Regarding selfless service, the members of CEBN address themselves to politicians, their respective supporters, and the general population that is preoccupied with the imminent polls.

“Power and authority are given for the service of all. No one can or should claim to serve the nation by violating the rights of those he or she is supposed to serve,” the Bishops say in their three-page statement.

They add, “The conquest of power cannot trample on the rights of citizens or undermine the essential values on which our society is based, namely, respect for life, freedom of conscience and expression, respect for property, respect for the common good, rejection of corruption, in other words, good governance.”

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Making reference to the highlighted principles that speak to selfless service, the members of CEBN note that “it is by the way in which a political leader behaves towards these values that one can judge his ability to exercise state power, which is nothing more than a service.”

In the planned Burkina Faso’s presidential and parliamentary elections, eligible voters are expected to elect a president and 127 members of the National Assembly for a five-year term.

Campaigns for the presidential and parliamentary elections in the West African nation started October 31 and are expected to last 21 days, Xinhua News reported.

The presidential seat has attracted 13 candidates while 10,652 candidates are competing for the parliamentary seats.

The incumbent, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré who has been in power since 2015 is seeking a second term.

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In their November 1 statement signed by CEBN President, Bishop Laurent Dabiré, the Bishops say that the people of God in Burkina Faso should learn from the experience of the country’s past and gain maturity in the upcoming election.

“The political history of our country has been marked by crises of varying depths, the most recent being the crisis following the popular uprising of 30 and 31 October 2014,” the Bishops recall in the collective statement.

They continue, “The whole world watched us then, curious or concerned to know on which road the citizens of Burkina Faso, which some called or still call a poor and landlocked country, would embark on their future.”

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“The spirit of dialogue and concertation then prevailed and we showed the world that it is possible, despite limited means, to take up challenges that, at first glance, may seem impossible to overcome,” CEBN members add.

They note that “this gain, which is to our country's credit, must be capitalized upon and guide us resolutely and definitively in the consolidation of a State governed by the rule of law, characterized by the stability of its institutions and the maturity of those who animate the socio-political life of the Nation.”

“It is also in this spirit that we appeal to the leaders that the next elections will allow us to designate so that they work to bring back peace by working for justice and reconciliation,” the members of CEBN say.

Highlighting another condition for peaceful elections, the Bishops in the two-nation Conference want the Burkinabé to work toward a “country of men of integrity and a united country.”

“The history of our country is that of a people who have always known how to make cultural, ethnic or religious differences that characterize its citizens, a source of wealth and an example of cohesion in the eyes of the world,” the Bishops say in their November 1 statement.

They add, “Differences of political opinion are also supposed to be a source of wealth and not a source of division, a means of manipulating opinion or a means of subversion.”

The Bishops caution politicians and members of the public in the West African nation against seeing “the difficult times we are going through as opportunities to make the most of them for oneself or one's party.”

“Rather, every citizen should invest and take pride in working for the good of all, for the honour of the country,” the members of CEBN say.

Making reference to Pope John XXIII, the Bishops invite citizens to massively participate in the elections saying, “Voting is one of the pillars of all democratic institutions, as well as one of the best guarantees of the sustainability of democracy. We are then called and urged to participate in it to continue building our Nation.”

They however decry persistent insecurity in the West African nation that could hinder the electoral process saying, “We are surrounded on all sides by the hydra of terrorism; we do not stop counting our dead and seeing hundreds and thousands of our compatriots, particularly from the regions of the Sahel, persecuted, dispossessed of their property and forced to be refugees in their own homeland; the figures relating to this crisis are very significant despite their differences.”

“It is in this context of insecurity aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has mobilized and continues to mobilize the health personnel to whom we pay tribute for their valour, patriotism and humanism, that the voice of the Bishops of Burkina Faso wants to be that of trust and hope on the eve of the elections,” they say.

They go on to explain that “the situation in which our country finds itself makes us aware that the rights that we often consider to be the most obvious are not definitively guaranteed.”

Referencing human rights, the Bishops continue, “We must work every day to preserve and consolidate them, preventing the dark forces that are working to deprive us of their enjoyment and to tip our country into other inextricable situations.”

“We, the Bishops of Burkina Faso, therefore invite all those involved in political life to rigorously apply the texts in force and to engage in a dialogue, which takes into account the particular context in which our country is living,” they say in their collective statement.

They add, “Let us commit ourselves to guarantee our country lasting security and peace. Let us be citizens who love solidarity, justice and social cohesion and let us give our people, through a democratic process characterized by transparency and integrity, worthy representatives who will preside over their destiny, to lead them towards an ever-brighter future.”

To all believers of the different religious denominations, the Bishops appeal for “unceasing prayer that God may accompany these elections.”

“We invoke upon each one of you and upon Burkina Faso the abundance of divine blessings,” the members of CEBN implore in their November 1 statement shared with ACI Africa.