- Right activists in Burkina Faso have been raising concerns over the safety of the West African country’s young talented reggae king, Sam Samsk le Jah, who receives anonymous death threats.
The revolutionary singer who anchors a music programme on Radio Ouaga FM is warned to either “stop your silly things on the radio or risk being killed.”
“We killed Thomas Sankara, we killed Norbert Zongo and nothing happened. Your turn to visit the graves is not far,” an extract of the email message sent to the singer from email@example.com, read.
Mr Sankara was the former President of Burkina Faso who was killed in a military coup. Mr Zongo, a respected investigative journalist and editor of the weekly ‘L’Independent’, was assassinated alongside three other people while he was investigating high level corruption within the government.
“You have to know that President Compaoré is a divine blessing. You should have done your own bit of development instead of criticising his development initiatives. The bullet will convey the message of death to you.”
The singer is warned not to divulge the content of the mail either. “Do not anticipate your death by revealing the content of this mail in your programme or to the media. We are following you, all your criticism will end. We inform people before killing them.”
Samsk le Jah is among a group of musicians who performed in a life concert on press freedom in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, barely a week ago. Musicians used the concert to sing songs calling for freedom of the press and justice in the killing of Mr Zongo.
The concert was among a series of events organised by the country’s press union in collaboration with human rights and press freedom bodies under the auspices of the international freedom of expression festival (FILEP). The body is headed by a Burkinabe editor, Cherif Sy.
A Burkinabe press freedom advocate, Issaka Herman Traoré, swiftly reacted to the threats. “They remind us that the old devils hell bent on unleashing terror on dissenting voices are still within our midst.”
He said freedom of expression and speech is fundamental in nature, whether dictators and their cohorts believe it or not. “Even in the olden days griots were known for telling truth on the face of kings or emperors. Except admitting their errors, they did not do any harm to them,” Mr Traoré said.
“Samska is doing exactly what is expected of a good citizen. Do the authors of the threats forget that freedom of expression and speech is guaranteed in our constitution and those of most countries in the world?” Mr Traoré asked.
He described the singer as a fighter of oppression and injustice, which is in tandem with the Rastafarian theorem.
Interestingly, the authors of the threatening mail admitted to have been behind the killings of both Mr Sanakara and Mr Zongo.
Mr Traoré said the authors contradicted themselves when they described President Blaise Compaoré as “a divine blessing of development initiatives”. If that is the case, he argued, then why do they bother to issue death threats to a musician for merely speaking his mind in a radio with just 100 miles coverage.
“The fact is that they are threatened by the truths of Samska to the extent that they could not swallow their disgust,” he said, adding that it is absolutely false and flattering for anyone to describe the Burkinabe leader as a divine blessing.
He questions the development initiatives of Mr Compaoré when Burkina Faso regularly ranks at the bottom of the UNDP least developed countries in the world. “Which development initiatives are they talking about when our country is regularly placed 174 on the world’s development ladder?” he asked.
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