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Patrick Ilboudo: Le héraut têtu [The Stubborn Herald]

Sadjo Sadjo has one interest in life and that is to unite all the countries in his continent, Dondulma. Dondulma, it is very soon apparent, is Africa. (I am guessing that it is a variation of Don du mal, which means gift of evil.) Dondulma consists of various other countries. Part of the fun is guessing the real identities of the countries and also of the leading statesmen. These include Zaira (presumably Zaire), Nabasmogho and the Tondyiri Islands (Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde), Iferouane (Niger), Bougouriba (Burkina Faso) and Kango (Congo). The statesmen include Amilda Cayaba (Amílcar Cabral), Tafo Kawanda (Kenneth Kaunda) and Siguiry d’Afrique (Ahmed Sékou Touré). However, even if you don’t know who these people are, you can still enjoy this book.

Sadjo is pig-headed, loud-mouthed and stubborn. Though he has had a university education, he does not come from a powerful family, has no chiefs among his ancestors and has no influential friends. Nevertheless he is so determined that he keeps fighting for his cause. He visits various heads of state and somehow manages to get an audience with many of them (though some refuse to see him). He does not even have his own country, being half burkinabè and half nigerien, which he considers something of an advantage but which is used against him when he tries to get positions in Iferouane, as the nationalism he hates comes to the fore. Initially he gets a job in the civil service in Iferouane but immediately asks for and is granted a two month leave to go and visit the likes of Kawanda and Cayaba, both of whom are very sympathetic. He then becomes a police officer, gradually rising through the ranks (despite internal opposition) to become in charge of a regional police force (where he manages to antagonise the local prefect). But this is not for him so he manages to get a position as ambassador, where again he antagonises powerful people, including the prefect. But he is not to be dissuaded. He has been encouraged by the (brief) East African Community (the original one) and is very disappointed when it fails.

We follow his career as ambassador, police chief, working for the protocol department, first secretary of the Iferouane Embassy in Washington (where he meets US African-Americans and even marries one) and various public service jobs. And, in virtually all of these positions, he antagonises, insults and harangues all and sundry, particularly the powerful. There seem to be continual plots to keep him out of various positions and, frankly, one cannot blame those who do not wish to work with him. Yet, many of these people seem still prepared to speak to him. For example, he has a very difficult relationship with a senior military commander and they set up an appointment for Sadja to come and talk to him. On the day he arrives at the commander’s quarters, he learns that the commander is carrying out a coup d’état against the government! Yet, he never gives up his ambition of uniting Dondumla. It is certainly a fascinating story but you want to hit him over the head and ask him why he does not try being nice to the powerful people on whom he depends for his ambition.

Publishing history

First published in 1991 by Editions I.N.C, Ouagadougou
No English translation