Burkina Faso 50th Anniversary Celebration in Washington D.C.
By Guest Contributor on Monday, January 10th, 2011
The 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps isn’t the only milestone people are celebrating. Last month several representatives of the Friends of Burkina Faso (FBF) group attended two wonderful events marking the 50th anniversary of Burkina Faso’s Independence: a celebration hosted by the Burkina Faso embassy at the Washington Marriott, and a second celebration hosted by l’Association des Burkinabé de la Région de Washington (ABURWA), the association of people from Burkina living in the Washington, D.C. area.
The embassy gala, with many members of the diplomatic corps in attendance, celebrated the extraordinary relationship and friendship between Burkina Faso and the United States. Paul Robert Tiendrebeogo, Ambassador Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations from Burkina Faso, spoke of the history of independence over the last 50 years and of recent activities that underscore the positive and friendly relationship between the two countries, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement and, most recently, the addition on December 16, 2010 of another 30 Peace Corps Volunteers in Burkina Faso. Echoing this theme, Jason Small, Deputy Director of the Office of West African Affairs at the U.S. State Department, put the evolving relationship into context. He mentioned the presence of the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso since 1967 and referenced recent movements towards development and democracy.
Saturday’s ABURWA 50th Anniversary all-night celebration started at 8:00 p.m.—and did not end until nearly 4:00 a.m.! This very festive event included opening addresses by Guy Lingani, the ABURWA president, and Pascal Batjobo, the Burkina Chargé d’Affaires, which included specific references to Friends of Burkina Faso. After the Chargé d’Affaires spoke, Drissa Dao from ABURWA introduced Mike Lavoie, the new FBF President. Mr. Dao’s warm introduction of Mike included a description of FBF’s long time commitment to Burkina Faso and also the special partnership that continues to exist between Mike’s village of Namtenga and Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Mike expressed appreciation for the invitation to Burkina Faso’s anniversary events in D.C., and offered congratulations to the Chargé d’Affaires of Burkina, all friends of Burkina Faso, and to all FBF members who are in Burkina Faso today. He observed that there was something very marvelous occurring at this moment in history, namely the convergence of three separate anniversaries: Burkina Faso independence, the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary and the 10th anniversary of the Namtenga and Cranbrook Schools’ relationship.
To celebrate and mark these anniversaries, Mike presented two gifts to Chargé d’Affaires Batjobo. The first was the 50th Anniversary poster that had been created through the wonderful efforts of Jon Berger and Denny Fitzpatrick. The second gift was a special framing of one of the original weavings from the Namtenga Weaving Studio along with a picture of the Cranbrook Schools with a note of congratulations.
In his remarks to the audience, Mike noted how Peace Corps friendships have endured not just months or a few years, but over decades. He concluded his remarks with a reference to what he said in Namtenga in a visit three years ago: “Duniya faa pa tar zood ye, la tond taralame.” “Tout le monde n’a pas l’amitie, mais nous l’avons.” (All the world does not have friendship but we have it).
Following the speeches, musical stars from Burkina Faso put on a fabulous show. These included singer Mai Lingani, George Ouedraogo, Hamed Smani and the Troupe Noong Taaba. The music and dancing was sensational! Mike Lavoie took particular enjoyment dancing with Mai Lingani whom he had met when she passed through Detroit on a concert tour earlier this year.
All in all, Burkina had a marvelous 50th anniversary celebration in D.C. and it was an honor for FBF to have been able to participate in a meaningful and enjoyable way.
[Thanks to Tom Vollrath for his reporting.]