Burkina parties for top film festival a year after attacks
A year after jihadist attacks killed 33 people, Burkina Faso's capital is kicking up its heels on the back of Africa's top film festival, which it has hosted since 1969.
Heavily made-up prostitutes strut on high heels at the Taxi-Brousse restaurant, one of the targets of the January 2016 attack claimed by the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as raucous revellers look on.
The high-octane merrymaking in Ouagadougou is a result of the Panafrican Film and Television Festival (Fespaco), currently under way till 4 March, whose organisers expect more than 100,000 visitors. They have set up a giant stage on an intersection in front of the Taxi-Brousse and the top-end Splendid hotel – another establishment targeted during last year's mayhem.
Lampposts in the area on the Kwame Nkrumah Avenue in the heart of the city are still pockmarked by bullets. The Taxi-Brousse and the Splendid have reopened but the nearby Yibi hotel and the Cappuccino bar are still closed.
"This used to be the hottest spot in Ouaga," said Seydou Zongo, a singer who is in charge of Fespaco's cultural programmes. "We want to bring the avenue back to life, create a little passage between culture and economic life," he said.
Three giant stages have been set up in the city for musical programmes and concerts involving 200 artists.
"This is to say 'Come back'. It's a form of resistance, a little step to bring back the enthusiasm," he said.
Despite the tight security in the dusty city where security forces are carrying out checks at all venues and frisking visitors, an audacious overnight attack was staged in Burkina Faso's north late Monday targeting two police stations.
The assailants injured a woman police officer and torched a police station and ransacked another. It was claimed by the local Ansarul Islam jihadist group. The group in December killed 12 soldiers in the deadliest attack ever on the west African country's defence forces.
The stage in front of Taxi-Brousse pulsates with different genres of music from Mandingo and rap to Congolese rumba as four policemen survey the crowds and entertain them on the side with their version of Michael Jackson's Moonwalk dance.
"If it's good, it means you like the police," one of the policemen jokes.
Frenchwoman Sabine Thomas says the city has captured her heart.
"I am happy to be here and to attend the concert, to see the joy of the people, the partying at Fespaco and the local bars full of people," she said. "One should not be scared. It's important not to create fear and I will continue to travel and come here," she said.
Street vendors are also happy with the turn of things.
"Business had stalled but its picking up," says Boston, a man selling necklaces and bracelets. "Fespaco brings foreigners," he said. "And with music, we forget. Today we are broke but we are not angry. This is Africa. We have to make do."
But a waitress at Taxi-Brousse however says that not the same after the attacks, which rocked the hitherto peaceful country.
"We don't want to talk about it. Every time we do, the memories come flooding back... we have to move on," she said.
Souleymane, a 46-year-old businessman echoes her.
"We must not completely forget but the music will help us," he said. "We are partying. Fear cannot confine us to our homes. The ambiance is here and the fear is receding little by little," he said. (AFP)
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