Burkinabè fighters search to guard themselves by means of religious traditions

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) – Antoine Ouedraogo didn’t run when extremist Islamic fighters killed his colleagues just a few steps from him in northern Burkina Faso. As an alternative, the 53-year-old stated, he merely recited a secret phrase and have become invisible.

Father of 17, who arrested bandits and now fights extremists as a part of a neighborhood protection militia, says secret drug he took as a baby continues to guard him from bullets and machetes .

“As adults we at all times have this drug within us,” he stated. “Even now, if one thing occurs, I can disappear.”

Fighters like Ouedraogo belief these conventional religious practices to guard them as Al-Qaida and Islamic State-related assaults ravage the West African nation, killing hundreds and displacing over one million individuals . The deeply rooted custom holds that crops, animals and ritual objects blended with verses from sacred texts can present safety earlier than going into battle.

“Earlier than anybody is confronted with a problem, they know that there are supernatural powers and spirits that they’ll name upon in any scenario,” stated Jean Célestin Ky, professor of historical past on the ‘Joseph Ki-Zerbo College of Ouagadougou.

Folks have believed in these powers because the daybreak of time and it stays sturdy in Burkina Faso because it has been handed down from technology to technology, he stated.

Some individuals say the follow is rooted in animism, the idea that each one issues, from rocks and timber to animals and locations, have a spirit. About 15% of the inhabitants of Burkina Faso establish as animist, in response to a report by the Worldwide Disaster Group, which states that this perception carries appreciable weight within the predominantly Muslim nation.

Nevertheless, cultural anthropologists say regardless of the origins, what rituals discuss is human nature within the face of violence.

“These fighters take unbelievable dangers, usually dangers they do not perceive and might’t management and it is onerous to think about somebody on this place who would not depend on a very difficult set of methods. of beliefs and generally on a magical thought. to remain protected and perceive their place on the earth, ”stated Danny Hoffman, chair of the African research program on the Jackson College of Worldwide Research on the College of Washington, who studied fighters utilizing religious shields throughout the battle. civil battle in Sierra Leone.

Fighters in Burkina Faso had been reluctant to expose an excessive amount of details about the method and the varieties of crops used, saying these had been stored secret even from members of the family.

However they defined that one strategy to develop into “bulletproof” is to combine 13 crops, insert the paste into the meals, and eat it from a gap within the floor. The meal is ready with water that has been used to soak a steel arrow for 72 hours – the concept being that because the arrow is product of steel, an individual will likely be protected against the warmth of the bullet whether it is shot.

Whereas many Burkinabés grew up acquainted with these practices, some by no means participated in them till the arrival of the jihadists a number of years in the past.

Soumaila, a 19-year-old volunteer fighter tasked with serving to the navy combat extremists in rural components of the nation, stated he solely began utilizing religious safety for the primary time when jihadists attacked his village within the north.

Even earlier than receiving a gun, neighborhood leaders gave Soumaila and different fighters particular bracelets, rings and clothes that may forestall critical damage and loss of life, he stated. The PA solely makes use of his first identify to guard his identification as a result of he feared reprisals for chatting with journalists.

Soumaila has survived at the least 10 clashes with jihadists for a 12 months and a half, a feat he attributes to a bespoke jacket that he says repels bullets. It value virtually $ 90, an enormous sum in rural Burkina Faso.

“While you get into harmful fights and survive, and nothing occurs, you understand that (the jacket) is working,” he stated. “If we did not have these protections, we might lack the braveness to enter battle.”

Made out of cotton by a neighborhood tailor who studied the Quran for over a decade in Mecca, the jacket is soaked in leaf water and options a number of Arabic phrases written on stitched animal pores and skin. Among the writings embody the identify of the proprietor of the jacket, whereas others say various things that Soumaila stated he couldn’t reveal lest the jacket lose its powers. Being photographed within the jacket also can strip her of her powers, he stated.

Some non secular leaders worry, nevertheless, that the rituals give a false sense of safety to combatants, a lot of whom are ill-equipped and missing in coaching.

“Should you depend on the facility of the shirt and you are going to combat and (the powers are) flawed, you could be killed.” It is as in the event you brought on your personal loss of life, ”stated Ali Kamena, an imam from the capital.

He known as the follow “satanic” as a result of the Quran says that anybody who’s in want of safety ought to ask God. All the pieces else is idolatry, he stated.

Kamena gave blessings to members of Burkina Faso’s armed forces from the Koran earlier than going to combat, together with for her son, a soldier within the military. One of many verses he makes use of says, “With the grace of God you possibly can come again protected and wholesome.”

However for some fighters, these beliefs transcend faith. The Dozos, former hunters who had been educated in fight, consider that individuals can depend on the powers of their ancestors. Religious protections could be given so long as somebody is an effective individual, believes within the course of, and undergoes an initiation.

Because the violence erupted, many Dozos have labored with the navy to assist shield their nation, drawing on traditions to maintain them protected. However many Dozos preventing on the entrance traces say they really feel ill-equipped and need the federal government to offer them with higher weapons as a way to thrust back the jihadists.

Soumaila additionally stated that if he was supplied with a bulletproof vest to guard himself, he would use it.

Throughout a celebration of the Dozo tradition in March within the metropolis of Bobo-Dioulasso, within the west of the nation, within the presence of the PA, new initiates about to obtain religious protections with seasoned Dozos fired weapons, danced and paraded with a lifeless leopard draped round their our bodies.

Pulling his rifle within the air and spinning it dizzy between his fingers, Idrissa Cisse stated he wouldn’t be capable to assist the navy combat extremists with out the ancestral powers that he believes make him protected. bulletproof.

“Once we go to the bush, our ancestors give us their good will and we’ll combat, do what we have now to do,” he stated.


The Related Press non secular protection receives help from the Lilly Endowment by way of The Dialog US. The AP is solely chargeable for this content material.

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