Burkina Faso Colonial History

Burkina Faso Colonial History


According to ethnicityology, Burkina Faso itself produced one of the greatest historians in Africa, Prof. Joseph Ki-Zerbo (1922-2006). He was not only a professor of African history in Ouagadougou, Orléans, Dakar and Paris, but also a pioneer of independence and a leading opposition politician until his death. His main work, the “History of Black Africa”, was published in German by Fischer in 1981 and comprises 774 pages.

German-language histories of Burkina Faso are still rare compared to French-language chronologies or collections of individual articles.

Most historical overviews divide the country’s history into four epochs: prehistoric, pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial.

The colonial story

1896-1960 French colony

Amazingly late, in 1853, the first European, namely the German Africa explorer Heinrich Barth, reached today’s Burkina Faso and – even more surprisingly – came back alive. Another German, Gottlob Krause, was proven to be the first European to come to Ouagadougou on September 24th, 1886. Krause vehemently refused to research for colonial interests and received little support and hardly any recognition.

In a race with the other colonial powers, the French managed in 1895 under Desternave from French Sudan to conclude treaties with the existing empires of Yatenga and Gurma. Their internal conflicts could be cleverly played out. The Mossi king of Ouagadougou, the Mogho Naaba, did not allow Louis-Gustave Binger to bind himself by treaties and offered armed resistance. Ouagadougou was forcibly captured by Colonel Voulet within two hours in September 1896, then burned to the ground. The firepower of the French proved to be more effective against the spears and poison arrows of the Mossi warriors. The Mogho Naaba fled to British territory, his brother was installed as a vassal. The Voulet-Chanoine expedition gained notoriety for the cruel and idiosyncratic behavior of its two leaders. It remains an example of arbitrariness and the madness of representatives of colonial conquests.

While the Samo and Lobi were cruelly subjugated, other southern tribes signed protectorate treaties with the French. These established garrisons and in 1904 consolidated their power by incorporating the areas into the colony of Upper Senegal and Niger.

For the French administration, the areas in the upper Volta Basin were regarded as a reservoir of labor throughout the colonial period. In 1914 they became a reservoir of recruits. About a fifth (approx. 35,000 men) of the Tirailleurs Sénégalais, whom France had recruited in French West Africa during the First World War, came from what would later become Upper Volta. Forced recruitment led to revolts in individual locations. The number of insurgents among the Marka, Bwaba, Bobo, Samo and Gourounsi is estimated by Kiéthéga at 300,000.

In 1919 the independent colony of Upper Volta was established. Between 1932 and 1947 the colony was divided up for reasons of profitability and added to the neighboring colonies of Niger, French Sudan (now Mali) and Ivory Coast. In 1938 Ouagadougou became the seat of the colonial region of Upper Ivory Coast.

From 1919 to 1932 and after 1947, the Upper Volta colony had to produce its own export goods as its own territory. With tax claims, plantation work on the Niger and on the Ivory Coast, construction of roads and railways (directed by Abidjan Niger), the colony was supposed to be profitable for France. Cotton was in the foreground. The price of cotton in France had doubled after the First World War. The government tried to make textile production, which employed around 300,000 people, independent of the increasingly expensive imports from other countries by promoting cotton cultivation in its own colonies. Part of the Mossi population was forcibly deported.

By 1600, the two Mossi dominions Moogho and Yatenga solidified as independent kingdoms, but increasingly lost central power. The empires were distinguished by a highly developed administrative organization and the divine veneration enjoyed by their rulers. There were nobles, free people and slaves. In some areas like Yatenga there were castes (e.g. blacksmiths). Chains as well as hand and ankle cuffs are often found relics of this era. Verbal traditions and early colonial documents give an idea of ​​how much iron production and slavery determined the pre-colonial period.

Like the kingdom of Gurma, which is related to them, in the east, the Mossi kingdoms withstood the attacks of other conquerors (especially the Fulbe and Haussa from the Niger arc) until they were colonized by France in 1896. At that time, the empires in what is now central and eastern Burkina Faso were from Succession wars weakened and quarreled among themselves.

In the west, many tribes were able to maintain their independence. The Ouattara dynasty emerged with a power center in Kong, the Gwiriko center and Kenedougou, founded by Sénoufo. A real empire did not come into being. Migration continued there between the 18th and 19th centuries. Less centralized groups came from Ghana and the Ivory Coast, including the Lobi and Dagara, to southwest Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso Colonial History