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Burkina Faso - Ethnic Groups

Burkina Faso is an exception to ethnic fragmentation, because the Mossi are about half of its people, although they occupy a much smaller share of its area. There were three historical Mossi kingdoms, each with a distinctive, sometimes hostile national traditions. The country is 40% Muslim, and has some distinguished Muslim scholars.

Burkina Faso is an ethnically integrated, secular state. Burkina Faso's 17 million people belong to two major West African cultural groups--the Voltaic and the Mande (whose common language is Dioula). Major cities such as Ouagadougou, the capital, Bobo-Dioulasso, Koudougou, Banfora and Ouahigouya bring together people from different religions: Animists (65%), Muslims (25%), Christians (10%). By another estimate, the majority (60.5%) of Burkinabe are Muslim, but most also adhere to traditional African religions. Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, comprise about 24% of the population, with their largest concentration in urban areas.

Burkina Faso is inhabited by some 60 ethnic groups, with a total population of nearly 10 million (1996 est.). Their distribution does not correspond to the present borders, a legacy of a heavy colonial past, and can extend beyond neighboring countries (Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire). They bear witness to a rich and profound history, marked by the existence of powerful and independent kingdoms, which rejected the Sudanese conquerors (the Mali empire of the XIII-XVIth century and the Songhai empire of the XV-XVIth century) and the zealots of Islam.

More than 55% of the population is Mossi, members of the Ouagadougou, Tenkado, and Yatenga tribes, based primarily in the Central or Mossi Plateau between the Black and White Voltas. The next largest group is the Western Mande (Bobo, Barka, Somo, Dyula) who comprise approximately 16% of the population, followed by the Senufo, Lobi, and Grunshi, who together make up another 20%. Members of these groups rely on sedentary farming for their livelihood, producing the major domestic food supply. The Fulani (Peulh) represent 6% of the population and are semi-nomadic cattle raisers, providing stock for the domestic and export markets. About 4% of the population, located in the northeast, are Tuareg and Bella, nomadic pastoralists who raise goats, sheep, and camels.

Longstanding conflicts between Fulani herders and sedentary farmers of other ethnic groups sometimes resulted in violence. Herders commonly triggered incidents by allowing their cattle to graze on farmlands or farmers attempting to cultivate land set aside by local authorities for grazing. The number of such incidents averaged 700 yearly between 2005 and 2011 but dropped significantly after 2012, according to the Ministry of Animal and Hydraulic Resources. According to the ministry, government efforts at dialogue and mediation contributed to the decrease.

Conflict between ethnic groups also occurred because of disputes regarding the designation of local traditional chiefs. For example, on 20 June 2016, violence erupted between the residents of Kougri and Dawaka in the Central region following the enthronement of a traditional chief. According to media reports, one person was killed, more than 10 were injured, and property was destroyed during the violence.

The dominant ethnic group is the Mossi, with the Voltaic Mossi making up about one-half of the population. The Mossi claim descent from warriors who migrated to present-day Burkina Faso from Ghana and established an empire that lasted more than 800 years. The group is mainly farmers and is led by the Mogho Naba (emperor of the Mossi kingdom), whose court is in Ouagadougou. The Mogho Naba is a revered figure who speaks with great moral authority and plays an important, informal role in fostering national harmony and dialogue.

Burkina Faso possesses a rich culture and history, and its people comprise 60 ethnic groups. The people of Burkina Faso, known as Burkinabè, are renowned for their tolerance and acceptance of ethnic and religious diversity, with Islam, Christianity, and indigenous animist beliefs all being practiced.

The Kurumba occupy a dry and inhospitable region bordering the Sahel, north of the Mossi Plateau. Some of them have joined the Nyonyosé clans of the Mossi. These are the clans of farmers descended from the original populations, before the arrival of the Mossi horsemen in the 15th century. These populations are called the Tengabisi by the Mossi. Other Kurumba, called Foulsé (singular Fulga), form a distinct group with traditions that are distinctly different from other Mossi groups. They speak a different language.

The denomination "Gurunsi" has been misused until today to refer to a group of distinct ethnic groups living in the south-west of the Mossi Plateau. Like the Mossi, they come from Northern Ghana. Nuna (inhabiting the south-east of the Mouhoun), Nunuma (which occupy the northwest of the Black Volta), Winiama, Lela, Sisala, Kasena, Nankana and Kusase are grouped together. This region, sparsely populated, was not conquered by the Mossi Cavaliers in the XV-XVI centuries because they were repelled by the disease of sleep transmitted by the fly Tse-Tse, which finds a favorable environment for its development in the places uninhabited. Nevertheless, these populations were marked, from the sixteenth century, By a heavy slave trade which continued until the end of the 19th century. These various groups generally live under the authority of the elders, the "priests of the earth" who are descendants of the founding lineage of the village community.

The Toussian live in the extreme south-west of Burkina Faso. The Senoufo, the Turka and the Bobo are the best-known ethnic groups that surround them. About 22,000 according to the data collected by C. Roy in his work,Art of the Upper Volta Rivers,which we have constantly referred to, the Toussian do not form a homogeneous group, even if their small number could lead one to believe. They are closely related to Senufo and speak a very similar language.

ince research by G. Le Moal many clarifications were made known to the people of Upper Volta and especially Bobo, long confused with the Bwa. They live to the west of the Bwa, to the north west of Burkina Faso and to Mali.

The Bobo are farmers and, like many peoples of Burkina Faso, apart from the Mossi and Marka Dafing, have no centralized political organization. A council of elders of the different lineages of the village directs the affairs of the community. While the traditional society has been greatly shaken by the French colonial administration, particularly in economic terms, C. Roy points out that " Only religious practices were spared and continued according to tradition.

"According to the myth of cosmogonic creation of the Bobo, the supreme god Wuro, at the origin of the world, has erased leaving his creation in a state of perfect equilibrium, and men constantly destabilize it by their daily activities , Such as that of cultivating the land, for example, but before it disappears, Wuro has delegated a part of himself to assist humans.In the tangible form of a mask of leaves or fibers (and other sacred objects Such as the rhombus), incarnation of the sacred entity the men have a help in repairing their damage and to return to the initial state of balance designed by Wuro. Thus prosperity and fertility are restored and preserved in the community."

Unlike the most sacred and oldest masks of leaves, which are burned after each ceremony, the wooden masks are carefully guarded by the clan chiefs, even when they are no longer used. Minor changes are always made on the mask when it changes clans. It thus acquires the status of prototype for its new purchasers. It bears the ownership of the clan. Each mask thus has its own history and an individuality, a kind of biography that traces the history of the lineage that holds it and for which it is a tangible witness to the other clans of its perenniality, its social and economic importance, political and religious.

The Marka Dafing call themselves Marka and live in an area in the Mouhoun basin between Samo, Lela, Nunuma, Winiama in the east and the Bwa in the west. They are closely related to the Soninke Marka who live in Mali. These two groups descend from a people of the ancient empire of Ghana defeated by Almoravids in the eleventh century. In the 15th century, the Marka settled in Burkina Faso, after the fall of the empire of Mali. Their political organization is centralized: a chief governs several villages. In rural areas, the Marka are almost all animists. Like the Nunuma, they have the reputation of being powerful and dangerous magicians and are thus respected. In the towns.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2017 18:16:04 ZULU