In many African countries, “rainmakers” and religious leaders regularly call for an end to droughts or floods. Traditions that date back several centuries.
From Benin to Nigeria, via North Africa… The continent is very often dependent on rainfall. It must be said that activities related to agriculture constitute the means of subsistence of nearly 60% of the working population of Africa. Whether drought or torrential rains are present, and it's a whole season that can be ruined. What endanger the populations.
Almost every year, religious leaders in Muslim countries in northern Africa invoke the rain. In November 2017, King Mohammed VI asked Moroccan imams to perform “rogatory prayers” to end the drought that was endangering agriculture that supports 40% of the kingdom's population. In Tunisia, last March, the Ministry of Religious Affairs called for the “Salat Al-Istisqa”, the “rain prayer”. The imams appeal to divine goodness so that a "beneficial rain" falls for the inhabitants of the region.
A belief that is not exclusively reserved for the Maghreb countries. The tradition is found in sub-Saharan Africa. In Benin, for example, those who make it rain and shine - unconventional voodoo animist priests - have the very prestigious function of "djiklonto-djidonto". These rain - and therefore fair weather - makers would have the power to call or stop the precipitation. The "djiklonto-djidonto" is occasionally recruited by the organizers of events: baptisms, weddings or funerals ... For days without rain, the "djiklonto-djidonto" offers its services for a few thousand CFA francs.
Nigeria also has its “rainmakers”. And if the function can attract the mockery of those who had never heard of it, it should be known that these people, who are situated between the shaman and the sorcerer, are esteemed by the local populations.
Water, a sign of political power
“Rainmakers” are also found in mountains and rural areas. Generally, it is the “heads of massifs” who take on this role, says Antoinette Hallaire, in “Paysans montagnards du Nord-Cameroun. The Mandara Mountains ”. Before the arrival of Christianity, for the Mofu mountain dwellers, "the power to grant or refuse water was the sign of traditional political power", continues Jeanne-François Vincent, researcher at the CNRS. The Mofu worshiped these "rains masters", who made water spout for their subjects by having previously granted themselves the exclusive right to drill wells. Their rituals also made it possible to bring down or stop precipitation, according to oral tradition.
The researcher recalls that "this privileged link between chief and rain is not peculiar to the Mofu" and that "it is found among the Giziga, their immediate neighbors to the east, and, a little further to the east, among the Mundang who hold their leader responsible for the rain. Even further east, it is the Zaghawa who ask their leader to offer the appropriate sacrifices that will earn them rain ”. Rainmakers are therefore important in Cameroon and Nigeria, but also in parts of Sudan and Chad.
Between the rainmakers and the religious leaders who pray for the rain to fall, there is a danger, however, that it will not work. If the tribes all relate ceremonies which have given rise to convincing results, in the event of failure, in the African tribes, it is the village or massif chief who must bear the responsibility. A double-edged sword.