In Burkina Faso, a group of activists headed by a charismatic rapper is working to clean up the government.
The revolutionaries of Burkina Faso have an unusual symbol: the broom. Since the summer of 2013, a group called the Balai Citoyen (citizens with a broom) has been working to clean up the country and sweep up its political class.
On October 31st 2014, they celebrated a huge victory: Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré announced his resignation following massive protests over his attempt to extend his 27-year rule. Amid the confusion of political transition, the Balai Citoyen called for citizens to come out with their brooms and clean the streets of Ouagadougou – literally.
But as the excitement of a new political era in Burkina Faso is fading, there is a lot of work to do. Today, the movement is demanding the opening of an official investigation in the 1987 killing of the revolutionary hero Thomas Sankara, as well as the resignation of the Transport Minister.
I spent 10 days with the movement’s charismatic leader, a rapper named Smockey. He invited me to his studio and to his secret meetings. We visited hospitals where he saluted those who were injured during the protests. Many in Burkina Faso see him as the country’s best hope for things to change, a heavy responsibility that has turned him into a celebrity.