Burkina Faso: Music studio in capital bombed after coup

21 September 2015

Studio Abazon in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, was attacked in the early hours of 17 September 2015, allegedly targeted by coup soldiers because of the activism of its owner, rapper Smockey.

The studio is owned and run by top Burkinabe rapper and revolutionary artist, Serges Martin Bambara – also known as Smockey (or Smokey). The attack was reportedly carried out by members of the RSP, otherwise known as the ‘Presidential Guard,’ led by General Gilbert Diendéré, the leader of the military junta that seized power in the country this week.

Studio Abazon, according to rights activists in Ouaga, was rocket-bombed by members of the RSP. According to reports, the well-equipped studio, a hub for young and aspiring musicians in Ouga, was damaged beyond repair – which confirms the suspicion that it was an orchestrated attack on the artist, who in recent years has become the rallying voice for the politically decimated angry and idealistic young Burkinabe.

Smockey is the leader of a popular socio-political movement called Balai Citoyen (The Citizens’ Broom), which led the revolt against the dictatorial actions of former President Blaise Compaoré. The popular revolt forced Compaoré to resign and flee the country on 31 October 2014. General Diendéré was number two man to Compaoré. His leadership of the RSP targeted Smockey and members of The Citizens’ Broom, who they perceived as enemies of the ousted Compaoré.

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Arterial Network published a newsletter on 18 September 2015 which delivers more background on the current situation in Burkina Faso. Arterial Network wrote:

Artists and human rights defenders targeted in Burkina Faso

arterial-newsletter-front“With elections due in October, Burkina Faso awoke on Wednesday 16 September to a coup by members of the RSP military forces, otherwise known as the “Presidential Guard”, and led by former president Blaise Compaore’s chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Diendere.

A notable feature of the coup is that artists and human rights defenders have come under threat according to an Amnesty International Burkina Faso official and independent reports. A recording studio burnt down following Presidential Guard rocketfire in Oaugadougou on the first day of the coup. The attack on the Abazon recording studio follows police harrassment and damage to property at the home of popular rapper Smockey the same day. Smockey, owner of the Abazon studio, and prominent leader in the Balai Citoyene movement, was threatened and warned to cease his outspoken activism. Other artists have gone into hiding following reports that they were being sought by the RSP.

There is speculation that the targeting of artists is a response to the active role artists played in the Balai Citoyen movement, a largely youth-based organisation who in 2014 vigorously opposed President Blaise Compaore’s attempts to manipulate the constitution in order to run for a 3rd term of office. Public demonstrations and the torching of Parliament buildings culminated with Compaore fleeing the country to Ivory Coast, when he remains in exile.

Earlier this year, the Abazon studio was the location for the recording of the ‘Right to Life’ song by eleven leading musicians from eight African countries. This recording was part of the Artwatch Africa Ambassadors project of the pan-African arts organization Arterial Network, and aimed at raising awareness about artist rights and creative expression.”

Ambassadeurs de la liberté d’expression – Droit de vivre
The Ambassadors for Freedom of Expression

Video published on on 16 September 2015 by Artwatch Africa.

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