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.

Smockey, the unofficial leader of the Balai Citoyen, stands inside the burnt parliament building.
A young protestor.
Thousands of anti-government protestors set fire to Burkina Faso’s parliament on October 30th, 2014.
Twenty seven years later, the death of the revolutionary Thomas Sankara remains a mystery.
Students hold a debate about the revolution at the university.
A group of men enters the house that used to belong to Blaise Compaoré’s brother.
People called “vultures” go in these houses to destroy everything that can be stolen or reused.
A man walks through the burned home of Blaise Compaoré’s brother.
Smockey in his recording studio.
Street vendors sell pictures of Smockey to fans.
Smockey shows his support for wounded protestors outside of a hospital.
A man writes “Blaise Ebola” on an unfinished house in Ouagadougou, as a sign of protest.