Burkinabè dictator-novels and the struggle against impunity

Baker, Charlotte Anne (2019) Burkinabè dictator-novels and the struggle against impunity. Research in African Literatures, 49 (3). pp. 116-130. ISSN 0034-5210

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In December 1998 the body of the Burkinabè novelist and newspaper editor Norbert Zongo was found in his burned-out vehicle in the village of Sapouy. He had become a victim of the impunity of the dictatorial regime of Burkina Faso's president, Blaise Compaoré. Sten Hagberg contends that the killing of Norbert Zongo characterized a certain political culture and was thus perceived as the starting point for an organized and widely mobilized sociopolitical struggle against impunity (31). Strikes and riots characterized the struggle to bring justice for Zongo and other victims for whose deaths the perpetrators had been neither tried nor punished. It was time that impunity came to an end, it was argued, before any rule of law could be real (Hagberg 219). While the critical focus has rested predominantly on the sociopolitical dynamics of this struggle, this article contends that the fight against impunity also found expression in Zongo's outspoken journalism and in his fictional work, as well as that of his contemporaries. This article traces the critique of impunity in Zongo's Le Parachutage (1989) and in the later Burkinabè novels of Patrick Ilboudo and Loro Mazono. I approach these Burkinabè novels as dictator-novels and argue that while a focus on the aesthetic qualities of these texts is important, they must also be read as part of the sustained fight for accountability in contemporary Burkina Faso.

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Journal Article
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Research in African Literatures
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23 Mar 2020 17:00
Last Modified:
17 Sep 2023 02:29