• Indigenous peoples in Burkina Faso

    Indigenous peoples in Burkina Faso

    The Peul and the Tuareg are the main indigenous groups of Burkina Faso, but are not recognised. The Constitution of Burkina Faso guarantees education and health for all, but as the Peul and the Tuareg are nomades, they can in practice only enjoy these rights to a very limited extent.
  • Peoples

    60 different ethnic groups can be found in Burkina Faso
  • Rights

    2007: Burkina Faso votes in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Current state

    The Peul and the Tuareg are the main indigenous groups of Burkina Faso, but are not recognised. The Constitution of Burkina Faso guarantees education and health for all, but as the Peul and the Tuareg are nomades, they can in practice only enjoy these rights to a very limited extent.

Update 2011 - Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso has a population of 14,017,262 (4th General Census of Population and Housing, December 2006) comprising some 60 different ethnic groups. The indigenous peoples include the pastoralist Peul (also called the fulbe duroobe egga hoɗɗaaɓe, or, more commonly, duroobe or egga hoɗɗaaɓe) and the Tuareg.

There are no reliable statistics on the exact number of pastoralists in Burkina Faso.

They can be found throughout the whole country but are particularly concentrated in the northern regions of Séno, Soum, (Baraboulé, Djibo), Yagha and Oudalan. The Peul and the Tuareg most often live in areas which are geographically isolated, dry and economically marginalised and they are often the victims of human rights abuses. Burkinabe nomadic pastoralists, even if innocent of any crime, have thus been subjected to numerous acts of violence: their houses burnt, their possessions stolen, their animals killed or disappeared, children and the elderly killed, bodies left to decay and their families forbidden from retrieving them.

Peul pastoralists are gradually becoming sedentarised in some parts of Burkina Faso. There are, however, still many who remain nomadic, following seasonal migrations and travelling hundreds of kilometres into neighbouring countries, particularly Togo, Benin and Ghana. Unlike other populations in Burkina Faso, the nomadic Peul are pastoralists whose whole lives are governed by the activities necessary for the survival of their animals and many of them still reject any activity not related to extensive livestock rearing.

The existence of indigenous peoples is not recognised by the Constitution of Burkina Faso. The Constitution guarantees education and health for all; however, due to lack of resources and proper infrastructure, the nomadic populations can, in practice, only enjoy these rights to a very limited extent. Burkina Faso voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Nomadic pastoralists living in state-created zones

The sondré Est pastoral zone

In order to provide nomadic pastoralists with greater security, the Burkinabe state has created pastoral zones,1 which are generally inhabited by extensive livestock farmers. From December to June, however, these zones do no provide sufficient food for their animals and so these farmers move in search of new pasture. Such is the case of the Sondré Est pastoral zone, which covers an area of 16,459 ha.2 Many of the pastoralists in the Sondré Est pastoral zone practise seasonal transhumance, moving to the provinces of Sissili and Naouri in the south of Burkina and also to Ghana and then returning to Sondré Est during the rainy season.

Although the Sondré Est pastoral zone can only be occupied by pastoralists, neighbouring agricultural farmers tried on several occasions during 2011 to take over part of the area and clear it. It took the intervention of the Ministry for Animal Resources3 to dissuade them. They may, however, try again in 2012, and the question remains how nomadic pastoralists can be provided with the best security.

The aVV development zone

Apart from the pastoral zones, nomadic pastoralists’ families are also settled in other areas created by the state. Such is the case of the Volta Valleys Development Zone, commonly known as the AVV. The aim of the AVV is to improve the uninhabited or under-populated valleys of the River Volta and its tributaries.4

The nomadic pastoralists living in the AVV practise seasonal transhumance, sometimes travelling to Ghana or Togo with their animals. Since 1 December 2011, these pastoralists have been suffering attacks at the hands of their neighbours. Pawanezambo Belem, a journalist with Mutations 5 described the attacks, using the words of Mrs Mariam Bandé,6 a pastoralist:

We were at home on the night of 1 December 2011 as usual. We didn’t expect anything to happen. It was around seven in the evening that one of our sons came to tell us that a group of people were burning our neighbours’ houses down. We went outside and saw the fire. We didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t know what to do. A few minutes later, they reached us. There was a lot of them. When they arrived, they told us clearly that they had come to burn the area. They told us to leave the village. Family members began to run. No-one was able to get anything out of the house. A young Mossi even took the only bag that one of our elders had managed to bring out and threw it on the fire. When I asked them to let me get my sick child who was in the house, another youth caught me and beat me, hitting me violently on my legs with a stone. I fell over. Luckily, another one of them told them to let me get my child out before they set fire to the house.

According to Belem, the agricultural community from the village, mainly Mossi, had decided to burn everything belonging to their Peul neighbours. A fight between two individuals from the two communities was apparently at the origin of this rage. A young cattle herder had let his cattle stray into a cotton field. The farmer, unable to control himself, had apparently slapped the boy, who retaliated by injuring the farmer. This latter went to the clinic for treatment. He told his family what had happened and they informed the whole Mossi community. The Mossi decided to embark on a path of indiscriminate revenge. Belem entitled his article “Mogtédo: the authorities endorse the pursuit of Peul from Bomboré”. Two months after the tragedy, dozens of pastoralists are still unable to return home and none of the assailants have been arrested.

Cross-border pastoralists: Burkinabe in Ghana and Malians in Burkina

Transhumant pastoralists suffer massacres both in their country of origin and across borders. On 7 December 2011, the worst massacre to date led to the deaths of 13 egga hoɗɗaaɓe from Burkina Faso, six of whom were children, in Gushiegu/Tamalé, in the Northern Region of Ghana.

Moreover, 205 egga hoɗɗaaɓe, Malian in origin, have been settled in Oudalan Province, in the north of Burkina, for eight months. They fled acts of violence being committed by the Tuareg, who kill them and take their cattle. Without cereal crops or other sources of income, their future is in grave doubt.

Meetings on the massacres

For years, the egga hoɗɗaaɓe have been subjected to massacres that have resulted in many deaths. In an attempt to find strategies to put an end to this violence, meetings were organised in 2011 in four provinces where massacres have taken place: Naouri, Zoundweogo, Poni and Gourma.7 These meetings were well attended by locally-elected representatives, commune-level mayors, customary chiefs, lawyers, members of civil society organisations, pastoral and agricultural technicians, and members of the egga hoɗɗaaɓe, and were a great success.

Workshops on building an indigenous peoples’ movement

Although the egga hoɗɗaaɓe self-identify as indigenous peoples, they lack a greater awareness of the concept. This is why 2011 was devoted to encouraging ownership of the concept through workshops organised in the provinces of Burkina Faso in which many egga hoɗɗaaɓe live, and also in the bordering countries to which they move seasonally.

Overall, the workshops enabled more than a thousand egga hoɗɗaaɓe in the provinces of Naouri, Poni, Kulelgo, Gourma and Kompienga, and in Benin,Togo and Ghana to gain a greater understanding of the concept of “indigenous peoples”. They also revealed the need to establish a network aimed at reducing the discrimination, stigmatisation, marginalisation and vulnerability of the egga hoɗɗaaɓe.

A better structured regional indigenous peoples ’movement

It is becoming increasingly clear that the issue of the egga hoɗɗaaɓe cannot be addressed on a national basis alone. In fact, many Peul live throughout the countries of both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) south of the Sahara, and they all have one thing in common: pastoralism is their main activity.

Pastoralism contributes between 10% and 44% of an African state’s GDP, depending on the country. Moreover, “Pastoralists, who have been accused of being at the root of environmental degradation for decades are now being recognised as the good guardians of variable environments and the positive environmental externalities that well-managed pastureland offers are now commonly acknowledged”.8

It is important to help the egga hoɗɗaaɓe organise across the ECOWAS and even the ECCAS space, so that Member States can better understand the importance and contribution of pastoralism at a national and regional level.

 Notes and references

1   Law No. 034-2002 on pastoralism in Burkina Faso. Official Journal of Burkina Faso, 2003, No. 01.

2    Nebie, ousmane, 2010: “Sondré Est: Une expérience de sédentarisation de l’élevage transhumant”. In Koffi Atta and Pierre T. Zoungrana (ed.). Logiques paysannes et espaces agraires en Afrique. Paris, France: Karthala, pp. 215-233.

3 I personally met the Minister for Animal Resources to inform him of the situation.
4 Decree No. 76/021/PRES/PL/DRET of 23 January 1976.
5 Belem, Pawanezambo, 2012: Mutations -Mensuel d’informations générales et d’opinions, No. 05/January 2012.

6 http://www.lefaso.net/spip.php?article45823&rubrique14

7 The Gourma Provincial Forum was a failure. In fact, we refused to hold it because apart from the commune’s mayor the only other leaders were Peul. Nonetheless, a 15-person delegation travelled more than 300 km to take part in the forum.

8    Lane, C. R. (ed.), 1998: Custodians of the Commons. Pastoral land tenure in East and West Africa. London: UNRISD-IIED, Earthscan. 

Issa Diallo is senior research fellow at the National Center for Scientific and Technological Research in Ouagadougou. He is also president of the Association for the Protection of the Rights and the Promotion of Cultural Diversities of Minority Groups (ADCPM), officially recognized by the Government of Burkina Faso since 2005. ADCPM’s objective is to promote human and cultural rights, especially for people from minority groups.

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