Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Visit to Ouagadougu

Viva la France en Afrique – especialement dans Ouagadougu!
We have just returned from our first exploration beyond Ghana’s borders and we feel as though we have just returned from France! A foursome of VSO’s, ourselves, Pete, and Helen with her Ghanaian boy-friend Souf, ventured forth into Burkina Faso for a long weekend; once across the Ghanaian border and into Burkina, if you could not speak French you were in big trouble, nobody could, or would, speak a word of English in the part of Burkina that we explored.

So, it was French road signs, kilometre distances counting down to your destination on the Route National and to our disbelief a péage charging for the use of the roads; add to that supermarchés, boulangeries, croissants, pain au chocolat, baguettes, proper coffee and French wine – what more could you want? We very definitely felt as though we were in a foreign country and three of our compatriots, including our Ghanaian friend, felt totally excluded through not being able to communicate in French; the place at which three of us stayed (the other two stayed with the Ghanaian Ambassador!) even hosted the Tour de Burkina Faso cycle race! Mais oui, c’est vrai!

Mais tous la meme c’était un trés bon repos!
Ougadougu is the capital city of Burkina and is very well laid out and organised and much more appealing than Ghana’s capital Accra, it is more clean and tidy, the traffic lights all work, the banking system is user friendly – plenty of ATMs that work for getting cash, and you can pay by Visa in the hotels.

The colonial legacy – good or bad, that is the question?
Burkina Faso and its people have much in common with Ghana; it is the colonial powers that put in place the wholly artificial and inappropriate borders and imposed alien languages. All in all for we Obruni (Ghanaian for foreigner), it is a salutary experience to see both the good and the downsides of colonialism – we have to leave it to the Ghanaians and Burkinans, who are both exceptionally friendly and hospitable people, to be the judges of the pros and cons of its consequences.