The city of Ouagadougou develops around the International airport of Burkina Faso, a surface of more than 300 hectares in the middle of the capital.
At the exit of the airport, going along the 2 kilometers which separate it from the central market Rood Woko, the Great Mosque or the Cathedral, you cross the huge desolated area of 80 hectares, better known as project ZACA, Zone d’Activitès Commerciales et Administratives, that represents the largest and most expensive urbanistic project in the country.
After a first phase started in 1990, through which the district of Koulouba and the Avenue Kwamè N’krumah – administrative and financial centers of the city – were requalified, in 2000 the Burkinabe authorities announced the project of urban requalification ZACA.
The project spread out on an area of 80.000 m2 in the middle of the city, a surface shared by the five old Muslim districts of Kamsaoghin, Koulouba, Peuloghin, Tiedpaloga and Zangouettin.
Its aim is that of cleaning out an old and multi-layered popular area of Ouagadougou, inhabited by more than 50.000 people, and consequently of obtaining plots of land to be sold to national and foreign investors in order to create a new district for the tertiary sector. It would have brought the capital to compare itself with the big cities of the Sub-Saharan regions such as the nearby Abidjan and Accra.
In the following months the burst of protests caused a redefinition of the existing relationship between the Muslim community and the Government. The protest demonstrations were led by local imam and focused on Zangouettin, going against the expropriation and claiming the economic and cultural value of their plots of land. Tones and actions sometimes became violent because of the lack of negotiations among the promoters.
Meanwhile the Government started an enquiry to find out the houses’ owners and to pay them compensation. However the lack of bureaucracy and the fragmentation of the parcels caused a delay. The districts involved dated back to the pre-colonial period and they showed traces of a traditional society: among the Mossi, the biggest ethnic group in Burkina Faso, the plots of land were assigned orally by Tengsobdanba, responsible for “the entire land of the Kingdom” under the direction of Mogho Naba, le chef du monde.
The area was cleared in 2003 and people moved in new suburban districts in the south of Ouagadougou.
Then the bulldozers began to wipe out everything.
At first the promoters started building the infrastructure, they reorganized the land with new road networks, lighting, water and drainage systems etc. Later they obtained new bigger parcels sized between 500 m2 and one hectare, desirable for the property market and with a an average cost of 150 dollars/s.q.m.
The end of this ambitious project has been arranged for 2014.
Where the popular districts colored the roads of Ouagadougou, now there are new four-lane roads which are already rough; where the markets filled with people in the cool early mornings now there are cubic meters of rubbish which cover square meters of land. Big buildings fenced with video surveillance systems, street lamps put there with the only purpose of prostitution and trafficking, grazing animals among abandoned skeletons of cement.
ZACA operation is not such a positive model as the Government and the promoters have stated many times. The result is a big emptiness in the center of Ouagadougou, a neglected and decayed area without public interest, land for building speculation.
How will the great investments be able to compensate the disintegration of popular districts, in terms of development, employment, commonwealth and urban society?
Zagd ze viogo in Moore language it’s used to define empty, unused, no man’s land.