Burkina Faso // 54-project
I'm embarking on a 54-week project wherein I study one Africa country each week. No rules or limits on what I study or seek to learn, just trying my best to learn more about each country. I feel that in African studies the focus is usually placed on certain countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, etc) or certain events (colonialism, the Rwandan genocide, apartheid, etc), so that people interested in Africa might know a lot about a specific region or time, but not have thorough knowledge of the continent. I am hoping to remedy this situation, that I have at least found in myself, by means of this project.
Ahh, so I seem to have come into a pattern! Every week when I start my next country, the first thing I do is research languages of the country/language families in the region. We can see the linguist in me shining through ;) There are 70 languages spoken in Burkina Faso. French is the official language, but most people speak the other multitude of languages. Around 40% of the population speaks Mossi, also known as Mòoré, and I was really excited when I came across a YouTube video of Aguiaratour Kaboré teaching some basic greetings!
Fula and Dyula are both widely spoken and American Sign Language is used within the deaf community. In the capital, there is a Burkina Faso Sign Language. I am unsure why the language has only remained in the capital and not spread out, but couldn't find much information on this. If anyone can guide me to these answers, I would love to know more!
Before moving to politics of Burkina Faso, in February 2013, Burkina Faso gave us Africa's first anthology of LGBTI fiction and poetry. (Same sex marriage is not legal in BF, but they do not criminalize against activity. There are no laws protecting people from discrimination).
This week I watched Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man, directed by Robin Shuffield. It's a documentary about the Burkina Faso president, Thomas Sankara, who seized power in a popular coup in 1983. He immediately went on a program of social & economic reformations, leading Burkina Faso to its strongest economic time in its history. When he took office, he renamed the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, meaning "the land of upright men". He immediately reduced salaries of public officials, got rid of their fancy cars and first class flights, was one of the first heads of state in the world to promote women's rights, and the first African head of state to appoint a woman to a position other than women's affairs.
He started a widespread vaccination campaign, which received a nod from WHO; his government worked to eradicate polio and measles, vaccinating over 2.5 million people within one week. He was largely involved in environmental planning, also becoming the first African head of state to try to combat desertification. He planted millions of trees and encouraged citizens to plant also. As a Marxist leaning president, he followed the idea of everyone working together for the betterment of the country. Sankara wanted to build a railway connecting vital parts of the country, but could not get the funding from outside sources, so he had the citizens build it. He encouraged depending on the hands of Burkinabé, the local goods and craftsmen. He strived to use the own resources within the country, to avoid import dependancy.
Thomas Sankara has been on the tongues of many youth that are idealizing his presidency and the older generation that are reminiscing and thinking what could've been. Sankara is seen as the Ché of Africa and was murdered in a coup by his president and second-hand man, Blaise Compaoré. Following Compaoré's putsch, he stayed in office for 27 years, only recently being run out of the country into the Ivory Coast, due to another coup that occurred when he tried to change the constitution so that he could run again for presidency. (Compaoré is currently on trial for assassination charges). With the popular revolt that began in Burkina Faso in 2014, Sankara's image only grew more and more into a hero, an iconic man that transcends all dissent.
What is often overlooked is the political repression that became a staple of Sankara's time in office: many of the members of the political and bureaucratic classes, that did not align with the ideas of the revolution, ended up fleeing the country, taking away a lot of the human resources (ie: a teacher's strike that was not allowed, which resulted in a plethora of teachers leaving the country. To replace them, Sankara's government quickly trained some young revolutionaries in 10 days and put them into the schools. Needless to say, the quality of education rapidly declined following this exodus of teachers).