The Rasmata History

March,10 2022

Rasmata Sondo Tinkiego...Mossi (ethnic group)...accused mangeues d'ames...accused of eating souls. Rasamata sits erect in her chair and tells her story as if she were recounting a fable she had heard somewhere. She speaks with dignity and quiet animation. Before being accused and convicted of being a “witch”, Rasmata was a self confident, dynamic and attractive woman.: leader of the principle group of women in her village, population 2000. Born in the village of Thebo 68 years ago, she has lived there almost her entire life. She started life as an animist but later converted to the Muslim religion. The phenomenen of witchcraft is mainly and animist idea, though people of every faith are firmly convinced of it. Rasmata was one of two wives and had 10 children. She was always very active in community affairs and some years ago she was chosen to head the principle women's group of the village. A few years ago her husband decided that he wanted the wife of his younger brother. This woman was agreeable and together they discussed what they could do. They decided that the brother must die so they could be together. Rasmata came upon her husband and the wife while they were discussing the killing of his brother by sorcery. She did not tell the brother of these plans. He did become ill and said that someone was trying to kill him.

After his death, Rasmata's husband, brother of the dead man did not want to be accused so he went to a feticheur who said they must go through magic ceremonies in order to “find” the killer. This can be done in several ways: two men carry the corpse, or an effigy, called a seingo on their heads and it directs them toward the person who is guilty of the death and then bangs into that person. The sages of the village decided who will carry the seingo. The carriers were directed to Rasmata's house. In the villages each wife has her own house and the husband, another. He visits the houses of his wives as he likes. Rasmata was not at home but her house was rammed by the effigy. She was accused and people were sent to find her and tell her to come home. When she hd arrived they told her to open the door and when she did the effigy banged on it three times which automatically proclaimed her guilty of sorcery. It is now thought that her husband sent his magic powers into her as sorcerers can make another person take on his personage and at the same time, his guilt. The whole village declared her guilty and prepared her departure. They stripped her down to her underwear, took her cell phone and followed her to the border of the village, hitting her repeatedly. And so she wandered through the countryside, not daring to go to the main village of her department which is largely made up of Mossi, her ethnic group. Instead she walked 15 kilometres to Kordie which is mainly of the group Gouronsi. There she met a woman who though also Mossi took her in. Rasmata wanted to prove her innocence and went back to her village several times, asking them to give her various magic potions which were thought to prove her innocence or her guilt.

She was given potions at different times and though none of them proved her culpability, the decision was not altered. She remained guilty and exiled. She asked to return for other tests of her innocence but the entire village was told not to allow her to enter and all her 10 children were forbidden any contact with her, being told they would die if they tried to get in touch with her. She came back anyway but was met by a man who tried to strangle her, taking her money and leaving her by the side of the road. When she regained consciousness she walked back to Kordie Her husband in the village continued with his witchcraft against her, causing the woman who had taken her in to accuse her as well...for cooking an egg with a white feather so as to make a sacrifice. The woman sent her away, but fortunately Rasmata had a relative in Kordie who allowed her to come and live with him. The husband wanted to come to this house but the owner refused. At first everyone in the village thought she was guilty,as they did in Samba, head village of the department. However, slowly ideas began to change: people questioning: not that there was a sorcerer but rather who it was. A sign appeared on a tree in the village, accusing the husband as the sorcerer and saying that the truth would be discovered. One thing was sure: there was a sorcerer. Belief in sorcery is widespread all over Burkina Faso as it is in all of Africa. Many people, mostly women, but also men are accused. Fitil joined the Koudougou branch of ACCION SOCIALE OF BURKINA in an awareness campaign in the area. This initiative has met with considerable resistance from many people. Centres have been set up around Burkina to help women do commerce, weaving, gardening etc.

The story continues, read more soon.

Bako, our coordinator in Burkina, interviewed three refugees:  a woman, a man and a young boy.

Interview - 2021, March

1 - After a year spent here how did you find your life during this uncertain time?

The Man: Gassambé Moussa, says that life is difficult for them because since their arrival, thanks to the goodwill they manage to survive. Otherwise they have nothing else. hanno nient'altro da fare.

The Woman: Konfé Alimata, our whole life is in the hands of goodwill because we have nothing to do and we have no land to cultivate.

The Child: Gassambé Mahamadi, for him there is a little better compared to their arrival.

2 - Have your living conditions changed?

Gassambé Moussa: i can't say that there is a good change because when you leave home, where you had everything you wanted and you find yourself sitting doing nothing, waiting for someone who comes to hold out his hand before you can eat, despite the goodwill, we have no choice.

Konfé Alimata: yes our living conditions have changed because we now have food, but it is the accommodation that we lack.

Gassambé Mahamadi: yes there is a change. Since we receive help from goodwill from those like you us, it cannot be said to be bad.

3 - Have your ideas changed compared to the beginning? How do you find your life now?

Gassambé Moussa: at the beginning we hoped that we would return home as soon as possible. But as so far there is no solution, I think it will be difficult for us to return home. If they could find us a place where we could cultivate and do other activities, we would be happy.

Konfé Alimata: our initial ideas were that the situation would improve as quickly as possible so that we could return to our villages. But so far things have not changed, now we wonder if we will ever be able to return home. Where we are now is a place that belongs to someone and we don't know what day they'll come and say they want their space. We have no work and food, only if people come to our aid. All of this is a concern for us.

Gassambé Mahamadi: from the start I said that I would like to be a soldier to fight terrorism and avenge my parents. My ideas remain the same.

4 - How do you find the way we take care of you? The government, the villagers, your community, ACLEM.

Gassambé Moussa: the government came to identify us when we arrived here, but since then they have not back come. There as the volunteer who pass by full, they often donate a little money, old clothes and other small gifts but not the government. Regarding the villagers, when we arrived they helped as much as they could, but you know that everything has an end. Their support is not like it used to be but we don't want it, they are doing what they can for us. Often there are Muslim brothers who come to our aid. Regarding ACLEM, we can never stop thanking you for your frequent support and we pray for you every day.

Konfé Alimata: when we firth arrived, the Social Action came to give us some soap, after that we did not receive anything from the government. Honestly since our arrival in the place, the villagers have helped us a lot. Yes, there are also people from the Muslim community who come to help us from time to time. Regarding the support of ACLEM, we have not yet danced so that you can see how happy we are especially us women. You cannot imagine how many lives have been saved because of you.

Gassambé Mahamadi: no, the government is not helping us. The villagers come to our aid. There is no Muslim community that comes to our aid. Regarding ACLEM, we are very happy with what they are doing for us.

5 - What can ACLEM do for you? What do you need?

Gassambé Moussa: he started off with a proverb saying that when something is chasing you, as long as it doesn't stop chasing you you can't stop either. He says that given their current situation any help we can give them will be welcome, because it is the support of goodwill that keeps them alive. They pray to God and ask us to continue helping them because they are unhappy people.

Konfé Alimata: here we do not have activities that we women do. If ACLEM could help us train in soap making or weaving, it could help us a lot to have an activity to do. There is a market not far from here where we can sell our products, and also we are at the side of a major road where a lot of people pass by per day.

Gassambé Mahamadi: for me if ACLEM can help us have a place where we can go and live because there is not enough room here.

6 - How would you like to see the government act?

Gassambé Moussa: we have a lot of worries, we sleep in a school where women, children and belongings are crammed into the same room. And if it isn’t through goodwill we cannot eat. So if the government could help us in this direction, it would give us a lot of relief.

7 - Whether there was any other question or something to add, they all said there was nothing to add.

Konfé Alimata: if the government can help us find another site, that will help us a lot because here it is a school and if one day the owners say they want their school, where are we going go?

Gassambé Mahamadi: if the government can help us with the place because here it is not easy.

At their request, FITIL/ACLEM has organized training for 30 of the REFUGEE WOMEN to learn to make soap, which they plan to sell locally. FITIL/ACLEM will supply the training and the materials initially but the women will soon become self sufficient and will train others who might wish to learn.

The women have also requested to learn weaving. We hope soon to be able to supply some machines and initiate weaving lessons.

We feel that this is a very important project for the women who are at the moment totally dependent on others which is causing them distress.

Unfortunately there are no fields to cultivate which involves the work of the whole family.


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Fatimata Sawadogo

Febraury 25, 2021

"My name is Fatima Sawdogo and I come from Pisilé. We were sitting talking one evening around five when the djihadistes came and began to shoot at us. There was complete panic. Some men ran towards their fields while other men and women ran to hide in the tall grass nearby. They managed to kill 8 people. Between 7 and 8 pm some people came slowly back to their houses. They called the army stationed in Bourzanga and all who felt they could leave were escorted to Bourzanga. The corpses of the dead were also taken there. Two children of my older brother were killed before they movd on to our neighbour. The people here help us as much as they can. It is thanks to them that we eat and drink and they sometimes give us clothes. We are living very close together with no problems.

But concerning the government: no help at all from them. Even if they chase us from here we will go to another place, but we do not want to return to our villge before there is peace. When we left we were not able to take a plate nor a calebasse, nor clothing nor money. We only thought of saving our lives and so we must rely completely on the people here. But inspite of everything we continue to thank God. It is not easy to live here crowded into 50 people in each class room, but we do not complain and we feel grateful for what we have been given. We thank our new neighbours who are our only help”.

Mahamadi Gassambe

Febraury 11, 2021

“My name is Mahamadi Gassambé and I am 13 years old. I do not go “the school of the white people” but only to the Koranic school with 4 of my brothers. We were in our village when about 5 in the afternon bad people came and began to shoot us. We ran away and came here. The people who live here help us, but the government doesn't. I want to be a soldier when I grow up. The reason is because of this problem. Imwant to protect my parents and the others. I am the oldest and have 7 brothers and sisters. My parents have no money and no work, so it is the people of the village who help us”.

Issouf Gassambe

Febraury 11, 2021

“My name is Issouf Gassambe and I am 52 years old. We came here after 2 attacks on our village. After our arrival people came to take our names and promised to come back with aide. But since then we have heard nothing. The local inhabitants give us food and we divide it between us, but we badly need more food. My wife and 5 children are all here with me. I had no one in my immediate family killed, but my younger brother suffered losses”.