FESPACO: Does Burkina Faso prefer Mali to Togo?

By Damien Glez

Posted on February 20, 2023 11:01

 © Image by Damien Glez
Image by Damien Glez

With three weeks to go before the next edition of the Ouagadougou Film Festival, the organising committee has announced that the guest of honour is no longer Togo, but Mali…

It’s the kind of tale that might inspire a Togolese director like Sanvi Panou or Marcelin Bossou to make a feature film. Last January, the Burkinabe culture minister told his Togolese counterpart that Togo would be the guest of honour – an exclusive stamp of approval – at the 28th edition of the Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO).

And Rimtalba Jean Emmanuel Ouédraogo justified this choice by the numerous actions recently carried out by his southern neighbour’s government, “in the sense of creating a framework conducive to film promotion”…

However, on 2 February, the inauguration of the festival’s national organising committee was paired with some unexpected news: Mali, not Togo, was to be the guest of honour at the biennial film festival, held from 25 February to 4 March. Could this be interpreted as punishment for the country hosting Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the overthrown predecessor of Captain Ibrahim Traoré, the current president of the Burkinabe transition?

The culture ministry’s secretary general and president of FESPACO’s national organising committee Fidèle Aymar Tamini says that there is no dispute with Togo but that, given the challenges of the moment, “there is no better partner than Mali to be the guest of honour”…

Will the Togolese be sulking?

In this era when everyone is conscience about how we should avoid politicising sport, are we infusing political questions into our culture? Do the “common visions” of Mali and Burkina touted by Fidèle Tamini have anything to do with the onslaughts of affection observed in Bamako between both prime ministers during Apollinaire Joachim Kyelem de Tambèla’s recent visit to Mali?

Is it more a question of how to best frame the shot or how to produce a contemporary audiovisual production?

Togo’s Faure Gnassingbé may be wondering which “vision” is not his since his country is also affected by the terrorist threat. He also served as a mediator in Bamako during the crisis involving Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali. Without a doubt, the Togolese president will have to resign himself to not get an answer from a Burkinabe regime that is careful to select the subjects it will address.

Are Burkina Faso and Mali engaging in a sort of diplomatic pas de deux desperate for mutual tokens of affection? He who bites off too much politically cannot chew culturally.

Will the Togolese film authorities be sulking at this FESPACO, whose international attendance could already be affected by the Sahelian security context? Under the banner “Cinemas of Africa and Culture of Peace”, it is indeed under the sign of resilience that the biennial big-screen event looks to be celebrated.

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