With Burkina Faso set to hold presidential elections on 22 November 2020, there are fears of the widespread inability of accessing polling stations due to the presence of extremist groups that have disrupted voter registration in many parts of the country.
The incumbent, President Roc Marc Kabore is seeking a second five-year term in office with the ruling People’s Party Movement for Progress. The two emergent factors of peace and security, have dominated the headlines as the country finds itself in the grips of insurgency.
Kabore was voted in after the popular uprising in 2014 saw the removal of former president Blaise Campaore, who ruled Burkina Faso for 27 years after the assassination of Thomas Sankara. The wave of optimism that greeted his election in 2015 has been muted this year as the increasingly frequent attacks have dampened the electoral campaign.
The volatile security situation has resulted primarily from insecurity in the western Sahel region spilling into Burkina Faso. In recent year, the country has seen attacks form various terror groups including the militant Islamist JNIM from neighbouring Mali, and the Islamic State.
Internet penetration in the country remains low, however it remains an extensive source of misinformation and disinformation. As the globe continues to battle a global pandemic, online sources have been awash with information either proffering cures, both in French and in local languages.
Despite the low internet penetration in the country, which stands at less than ten percent, there have been increasing reports of false information being dispersed on various platforms such as radio, messaging platforms like WhatsApp, and Facebook, which commands the largest share of online users in the country.
For the general elections of November 22, 2020, CDD has developed a strategy allowing it to adequately observe the information ecosystem and assess both the levels of disinformation, but also the effect. The methodology adopted, based on our continued work in the field of countering fake news and disinformation will make it possible to actively monitor sources of information on online platforms that are false, correcting those false narratives and shortcomings throughout voting day.
Specifically, monitoring will allow:
- The collection and analysis of information on the conduct of the elections in real-time in order to assess the credibility and veracity of the information on social media.
- optimize a fact-checking system on election day;
- help correct any false information observed on election day by providing fact-checks in real time
Since the start of the process, CODEL has been able to carry out several observation and monitoring activities:
Establishment of the Election Analysis Centre
On the eve of these November 22 elections, CDD is pleased to announce the establishment from November 21 to 23, 2020 of its Election Analysis Centre at the Spendid Hotel. Established in partnership with CODEL (Convention des organisations de la société civile pour l’observation domestique des élections).
The Election Analysis Centre established by CODEL and CDD is an opportunity to establish a dedicated hub to countering fake news and disinformation. This will be the first of its kind and will create not just a database of sources, but will also begin to counter and fact-check election related disinformation.
Based at Splendid Hotel, the Centre will be operational the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of the month of November 2020. The main aim of the Centre will be about collecting all information that may be false, and identifying and establishing the sources and proceed to the verification. For the day prior to the elections, the work will be devoted to creating a channels inventory (TV, radio online’s press social network and so on).
The political environment in Burkina Faso is fragile and is steadily proving to be vulnerable to the threats of misinformation and disinformation. The general elections on November 22, 2020, while ordinary supposed to represent a history moment, have instead raised more questions as the country’s delicate state of security, political disenfranchisement and high number of displaced persons point to an election that will be vulnerable.
CDD is hopeful that this partnership with CODEL and other relevant stakeholders will come together to address the potential dark spots that will be exploited by fake news and, doing so, brighten the prospects for the conduct of not only peaceful but also free and fair elections in Burkina Faso.