The Mossi Kingdom of Ouagadougou established in the 14th century came under the authority of the Songhai Empire in the 15th, recuperated its autonomy in the 16th and became a French protectorate in 1897.
The lands occupied by today's Burkina Faso became the Haute Volta territory in 1947 and in 1958, a self governing republic in the French Community, under Maurice Yaméogo who was re-elected in 1960 and 1965.
In January 1966, the army chief of staff General Sangoulé Lamizana, assumed power and suspended the constitution. Lamizana ruled as dictator until the reintroduction of parliamentary government in 1978, when he won the presidency in a democratic election. Three more coups later, Captain Thomas Sankara who had taken power as head of the National Revolutionary Council, changed the name of the country to Burkina Faso, and a new national flag and anthem were decreed. In October 1987, Sankara was ousted and executed in a coup led by his chief adviser, Captain Blaise Compaoré, whose rule was legitimized by elections in 1991 and in 1997.
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Blocked roads are usual in this part of the world but they are generally due to road pirates and not to innocent cattle. Some are military but the three more common varieties are the police, the gendarmes and the customs squads (douaniers). The latter are particularly obnoxious as they can stop you far from any border and they often make everybody get out of the vehicle to be searched.
The 300 kilometre trip from Korhogo to Bobo-Dioulasso to took all day. We were stopped three times in the Ivory Coast, were delayed at the border and stopped twice again in Burkina Faso.
This roadside "maquis" near Banfora was very basic but the quartered lamb, you see roasting on the oven on the left, looked absolutely delicious. It might not have been totally hygienic but I would choose that over hot dogs any day.
In this village between Banfora and Bobo-Dioulasso the houses are rectangular and the round structures are used to store grain.
That big white pile in front of this village is not snow but raw cotton waiting to be picked up by the local cooperative.
I found a nice room in the Central Hotel, not far from Bobo's Grand marché, for 8 $US per night.
I made the acquaintance of Abdelkader Mécheri who headed an NGO that helped develop and train local professional organizations responsible for the development and efficient management of cotton production in south-west Burkina Faso. This very knowledgeable Algerian expat was most helpful and took time to explain some of the problems particular to the Sahel region (the belt of semi-arid lands between the Sahara to the north and the woodlands to the south).
Bobo's small but interesting Museum has an excellent exhibit on the country's cotton industry which generates half of the country's foreign revenues. Its further development is however threatened by desertification which is due partly to climatic change and partly to the traditional burning of scrub lands by the Fulani (Peulh) tribes in order to graze their cattle. The fundamental conflict between agriculturalists and pasturalists creates problems here as it has done everywhere else in the world.
The photo shows a Fulani house exhibited outside Bobo's Museum along with other traditional houses.
Bobo's "Grande Mosquée" next to the old Kibidwé district is a fine example of sahelian dried mud architecture. Most of the people have remained Animist from time immemorial because the Mossi Kingdoms were largely successful in resisting Muslim invasions before the colonial period.
The dry harmattan winds that blow in from the north in winter carry ultra fine sand dust that could be mistaken for haze in this photo. In this village between Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou, both the houses and the storerooms are round.
Here again, the Harmattan blurs the horizon in this photo of a typical village market on the road to Ouagadougou.
My room on the top floor of the Hôtel Idéal on Avenue Yennenga was a bit more expensive at 11 dollars but it was comfortable and I can recommend it.
This view of Ouaga's Mosque on Yennenga Avenue is blurred because of the dust carried by the harmattan winds.
Here again, the time I had spent establishing contacts in the places a was going to visit proved to be a good investment for the odds of meeting someone like engineer Silamana Somanda on the street would have been very small. Silamana was a gold mine of information but more importantly he invited me to attend the traditional wedding of his cousin in the countryside.
Traditionally, the groom's family sends a delegation of relatives and friends to the brides village to plead for her hand. The families are much more involved in a traditional wedding than the interested parties who play a secondary role and who sometimes are not even present.
There were two dozen of us in the groom's delegation. We were received politely with handshakes all-around but we were made to wait about two hours under the pretext that the uncle empowered to give away the bride was absent. I think that this delay was ritual and was meant to ensure that the groom's family would fully appreciate the value of the addition they were making to their clan.
Finally the required uncle arrived around 6:00 and the ritual presentations of both families to each other began in earnest. Token gifts of cola nuts and small amounts of money were distributed by the delegation leader to each member of the bride's family in amounts related to their respective standing. Then we all went to a holy place where the village "guérisseur" or shaman introduced the the delegation to the ancestors of the bride's family and vice versa. Red millet beer was a liberally passed around during these proceedings and the initially cold atmosphere grew warmer and warmer as the evening wore on.
The ceremonies ended with excellent dinner of chicken, rice and various sauces offered by the bride's family in a happy atmosphere of genuine friendliness. The whole event had been so much related to the establishment of an alliance between the two families that I would be at the loss to tell you who were the groom and bride. As a matter of fact they had been living together for couple of years without even a civil marriage!
I consider that it was a great privilege for me to participate and am thankful to Silamana for having given me this experience. The whole affair was somewhat magical for me. Family values have almost completely disappeared in the developed western world where they have been sacrificed who the pursuit of individual "rights" and selfish "happiness". Strong family ties and traditions impose restrictions on the individual's freedom but in exchange, they provide solidarity, support and a strong sense of identity that are lacking in the lives of most westerners.
I had another interesting contact in Ouaga, Saidou Ouédraogo seen on the right of this photo with his brother Boukaré on the left. Saidou was an example of a cultured African whose career as a successful anaesthetist had culminated in the ownership of an elegant and no doubt profitable private medical clinic. Needless to say, the contrast between the village shaman whose sincerity had impressed me and the affluent, modern, city doctor was striking!