Thursday, 26 January 2012

Burkina Faso – The Rich and Poor, the Grotesque and Beautiful – Part II

Ouagadougou is vibrant and bursting with enthusiasm, it bubbles with an energy that is rarely found in most places all over the world. ‘It surprises me’ one lady says, ‘how the people often do not know where their next meal will come from, but they are certain it will come’.
Living in one of the poverty stricken nations in the world is no easy task; opportunities come few and far in between, however, the people do not sit around, defeated or consumed in helplessness. Each day, they rise with the sun, and at the crack of dawn, are already into their daily routine, making the most out of what remains from that which was taken from them. And they continue, filled with hope on each day. “Wend-na-ko beeogo” they say. “May God give us tomorrow”, and when tomorrow comes, they wish for the same all over again.
Then the moment arrives, when you witness a sight that tears you apart, splitting your conscience into a thousand pieces; the unscrupulous flamboyant demonstration of wealth, in the midst of poverty, all contained within the presidential quarter. High rise buildings, neatly trimmed hedges, very neat, green grass – so green that when we showed our neighbours the pictures we had taken of it, they were surprised when we told them it was in Ouagadougou and could not believe – outdoor swimming pools, off road vehicles, high range cars, everything that you can possibly imagine associated with wealth. Venturing further into the presidential quarter, we were given an impromptu tour of the conference centre. The interior design was rich and superfluous; the colour scheme of the main conference hall was red all over – perhaps inadvertent symbolism of the blood shed to acquire such wealth, perhaps not – the traditional leather style sofas, and long polished wooden table where big decisions are made but never acted on, would not fit comfortable with your conscience, particularly when you know that somewhere less than a kilometre away, there is a local family eating their food on the floor, because they cannot afford a table sit around. Somewhere less than a stone’s throw away, there are children searching through rubble for scrap metals to sell at the scrap yard, walking around with a tin pot begging for loose change, or a disabled person, with no mobility, sat by the traffic lights, pleading for some   help.
This duality of co-existence between materialism and poverty, in such close proximity, should be an example to human beings everywhere that no matter how much wealth one acquires, it is not a human being’s prerogative to ignore the suffering of another, the suffering of their fellow people. It is this blatant numbing of the human conscience that has led to the collective deterioration of the conditions of living of the majority, and the increase in the standards of living for the select few.
This very numbing of the human conscience, has led to ignoring the increase in the gap between the rich and the poor, it has allowed for the destruction of villages in search for oil in order to obtain maximum profit, the dumping of nuclear waste on coast lines, destroying the livelihoods of fisherman, trying to provide for their family, the mass sale of weaponry that will be used to invade and terrorise, cutting down forests and trees, polluting water, the life source of our existence, all in order to maximise profit, and gain a superficial status, that is manifested in a surplus fashion, that will not last after we are gone. If this is what it means to be human, to numb your conscious, and ignore the suffering of your fellow human, then reincarnate me into a bird and let my fly to a better day, but if this isn’t what it means to be human, and there is something greater – which there is – than living for the self above all else, then let us search and rediscover it, for it seems we had lost it a long ago, and let us live for it, so that in the years to come, we may at least be able to live, with dignity, as all human beings were supposed to.

I fail to understand how leaders can live in excessive wealth, whilst the people that they claim to work for, claim to serve, live in such difficult circumstances. All the while the leaders say that we're all in this together?
I completely fail to understand, this notion of elitism. Completely. 


  1. Enlightening indeed. If Im appalled by the greatness of the gap between rich and poor and how some people get rich, I wonder still: Could a nation exist with rich only?Could it exist with only the poor...

  2. Sounds like the reminding experience that many of us know, but few of us have truly seen with our own eyes. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    God bless you bro. The poor with enter paradise before the rich.

  3. Very moving account that properly contextualises a serious disparity. We recently saw a similar experience in Haiti - but here the so called NOT FOR PROFIT organisations are culprits - thinking it perfectly 'Human' to flaunt wealth (stolen from aid that ordinary people have sent to alleviate the Haitians plight following the earthquake) in the face of nearby sufferers. It is discouraging to hear this kind of human tragedy on the one hand, but absolutely uplifting to know that the people are ever looking for the new day. Long may their spirit of optimism and courage continue. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences so movingly.

  4. Thanks JJ for sharing the reality check. Respect