115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Film for Participatory Democracy in West Africa: The Case of Senegal and Burkina Faso

Joseph Dieme, Humboldt State University

This paper seeks to explore how filmmaking has been an effective tool for democratic regime change in Senegal and Burkina Faso. More specifically, this paper illustrates that films in Francophone Africa are the voice of an alert and non-traditional civil society whose hunger to peacefully materialize human rights for all in Senegal and Burkina Faso is unstoppable.


Since independence from the French empire, regime change in Francophone Africa has mostly been attained through violence. Countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and other countries feed the popular narrative that change is impossible in African without bloodshed. This paper seeks to deconstruct this narrative by focusing on Senegal and Burkina Faso, two countries where succesful regime change has taken place due to the activism of a strong civil society. I argue that the instrumentalization of technology by the masses to produce films (where the performative languages are ethnic languages and "broken French")  has played a critical role in pacific political transition. The use of techonology by the ("uncontrolled and undisciplined") masses to plan and document the revolution suggests a shift in the way the West traditionally forecasts and narrates regime change in Africa. The case of Senegal and Burkina Faso highlights, in a sense, a post-Enlightenment paradigm in the relationship between the elites and the masses. Rather than bowing to the paternalistic lectures of the elites as to how change should take place, young generations in Senegal and Burkina Faso, by making their own films, provide an alternative voice for participatory democracy.