Burkina Faso: Joking kinship to pacify ties between communities

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been facing an unprecedented security crisis. Social cohesion and living together have been seriously undermined in several regions. To help restore peace and peaceful coexistence, Action Education, via the ACTE Afrique project in partnership with youth associations, has taken the initiative of promoting the tradition of joking kinship. This traditional approach is seen as an effective way of easing inter-community tensions. 

The figures are chilling: 5,336 educational facilities closed at the end of January 2024, according to the Permanent Secretariat for Education in Emergency Situations (ST-ESU). The Conseil National de Secours d'Urgence et de Réhabilitation (CONASUR) recorded more two million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Worse still, more than 3,000 people have died since 2015. The security crisis caused by non-state armed groups continues to plunge families into mourning. Once united in peaceful cohabitation, communities are now prey to palpable tensions. The social fabric is being torn apart, undermining community life and cohesion. Communities are stigmatised on the basis of their appearance, and their members are accused, rightly or wrongly, of connivance or complicity with armed groups. In this context of insecurity, mistrust between communities has become the rule. Suspicion and a lack of discernment have polluted the way people live together. 

Sowing the seeds of peace among young people

Despite the efforts of the political authorities to raise awareness of peace, their campaign is struggling to find a favourable echo in a context marked by a constant stream of violence. Yet the urgent need for lasting peace is becoming ever more pressing. This is why all initiatives to restore peace and live together are so welcome. Action Education has taken the initiative to become actively involved by drawing on ancestral African values to bring communities together. To achieve this, the project Action for Citizenship by and for All Children in Africa (ACTE Afrique) has targeted young people and schoolchildren to strengthen social cohesion through joking kinship or joking alliance or "rakiré" in the national Mooré language, an ancestral value since the dawn of time. 

For Mrs Sidonie Ido (née Kafando) of Collège d'Enseignement Général de Bissighin, "Joking kinship is part of our culture. It eases tensions between communities. It is a source of understanding and social cohesion..

In Burkina Faso, joking kinship is an important ancestral value, but one that young people are less and less familiar with. It is used for mediation and reconciliation. It is an important lever in the search for and maintenance of peace. It plays an important role in strengthening social, family and community ties. It fosters social cohesion, mutual aid and solidarity between members. It crosses generations and is a kind of ancestral pact prohibiting violence and especially bloodshed between ethnic groups, villages, communities and even family ties. Joking relatives can mock each other at will without risk. The public administration sometimes uses it when deploying staff to facilitate its relations with communities. 

Training on good citizenship and joking kinship (photo credit: ABEDEJ-BF)

Training on good citizenship and joking kinship (photo credit: ABEDEJ-BF)

Microprojects on joking kinship

Several youth partner associations have proposed micro-projects on joking kinship, financed by the ACTE Afrique project, the fruit of a partnership between Action Education and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). The Association des Jeunes Patriotes Unis pour le Développement (AJPUD), the Association Pensons aux Autres (APA), the Association pour le Bien-Etre, le Développement de l'Enfance et de la Jeunesse au Burkina Faso (ABEDEJ-BF) and the Association Soleil d'Enfants (ASE) have all implemented training, awareness-raising and educational talk microprojects on joking kinship in primary schools, middle schools and high schools in arrondissements 10 and 8 of Ouagadougou. 8 public primary schools, 5 collèges d'enseignement général (CEG) and a municipal lycée benefited from activities on joking kinship. More than 2,000 pupils, young people, teachers and educational supervisors were involved in the various activities.

For Ms Gourou née Kaboré Cécile, headmistress of Bassinko B. school, "Teaching pupils about joking kinship is a good initiative. It's one of our ancestral cultural values that pupils don't know about. It's a positive value that facilitates social cohesion and living together. The pupils really enjoyed it.. Through sketches and dances, the pupils proved that the message had got through. The allied ethnic groups had a great time.

"The Mossi are our slaves. It's thanks to the Samo that they are in Ouagadougou.says Francisca N. KI, a pupil at CEG Bassinko B. It didn't take much for the Mossi pupils to retaliate. A good-natured atmosphere in the school playground at the end of the first term. 

Bringing communities together 

Mossi and Samo, Gourounsi and Bissa, Bobo and Peulh, Senoufo and Lobi, etc. are all joking allies. There should be no conflict between these groups. But alas, the security crisis has shaken the cultural foundation that served as a cement for peaceful cohabitation. Let us hope that the role played by Action Education through ACTE Afrique will contribute, alongside other initiatives, to promoting joking kinship, which will help to heal the wounds and close forever the bloody parenthesis between communities that were once allies.


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