Land of the Honorable People

Many of you would not have heard of a country called Burkina Faso. I never heard of Burkina Faso till a couple of months preceding my maiden visit to the country in March 2005. Burkina Faso is a land-locked West African country having borders with Ghana, Mali, Niger, Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin.

If you are a student of international politics, you would not have missed out the political explosion that happened in Burkina in October 2014 when the people stormed the parliament, which was in session to amend the constitution for extending the President Blaise Compaore’s 27-year rule, and set ablaze the parliament building. The ensuing public upheaval forced Blaise to flee and take refuge in the neighboring Ivory Coast. Subsequently, there was an interim government that conduced free and fair presidential election leading to the victory of Roch Marc Kabore in December 2015.

This introduction, however, shall not be construed as the Burkinabes being a violent people, for they are not. The storming of the parliament was a desperate attempt to get rid of a president’s prolonged misrule. Burkina Faso means “Land of the Honorable People.” The Burkinabes are among the most honest peoples of Africa. They are peaceful and friendly, and I experienced their hospitality many a time, as recently as October 2019. Before renaming as Burkina Faso on August 4, 1984, the country used to be known as the Republic of Upper Volta.

Kwame Nkruma Road area is the main tourist attraction in Ouagadougou — pronounced as vagadhughu — the capital city which is hardly three kilometers away from Thomas Sankara International Airport, with many hotels based beside and slightly-off this road. The area has a few good Lebanese restaurants, road-side eateries, music, lights and sounds — all that a visitor wishes to have to cool down after a day’s work.

From in and around Kwame Nkruma Road:

Some of you might be aware of an attack by Al Qaida in Ouagadougou in 2016, and it happened at this road. A well-known cafe, CAPUCINO, was devastated with gunfire, killing many. I used to take my evening-teas from this cafe during my visits. It stood as a charred left-out when I saw it in 2017, and passing beside it sent a chill down my spine as the attack happened during the evening time on that fateful day. During the terrorist savage, a nearby four-star hotel named the Splendid Hotel and Taxi Brouse, a popular and economic open air bar situated adjacent to this hotel, were also attacked, killing a few. If you draw a triangle with these three firms as the joining points, they are separated by a few meters only. So you can imagine the area of the attack. Taxi Brouse was a favorite place for me to enjoy African music with beer. None of the attackers were from Burkina, they came from a neighboring country. When I visited Burkina in 2018, the city was back to business as usual — CACPUCINO and the Splendid Hotel were reopened, Taxi Brouse was humming with music. I had my beer and music again!

It is pleasing to say that during my visits from 2005, I could see signs of progress in Burkina like the airport getting a facelift by a largescale renovation, much construction activities, more cars on the road, new restaurants and more such good things in Ouagadougou. The city does not boast of many big buildings. The pictures of a few:

The outskirts of Ouagadougou:

Women hawkers:

With Indian friends in the city:

A click from the premise of Thomas Sankara International Airport, Ouagadougou, in 2017:

Bobo-Dioulasso is the second-largest city in Burkina Faso, around 325 Km South West off Ouagadougou. Though known as a city, it is a small place, closer to a “sleepy village” definition — no hustle and bustle of a city. I visited Bobo a couple of times, with an interregnum of 5 years, and could recall the place during the second visit without any hard-peep as the landscape had not changed much. You may paint me as a negative person, but it is true that I could not see any progress in the city. On the positive side, yes, I had a very smooth bus-ride from Ouagadougou to Bobo as the road was very good — 6-hour journey.

The wholesale market of Bobo:

An important point, as I always noticed, is that the people of Burkina, especially of Bobo, are courteous, showing praiseworthy-hospitality toward visitors. There is so much poverty visible and under-development around, but amongst all these drudgery, the people are peace-loving and courteous! Many misunderstand Africa as a dangerous place, but it is not, and Burkina is a testimony of a peaceful Africa.

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