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El Hadj Boukari, the religious leader of Sokodé

El-hadj Boukari, also known as Modjolobo, was a religious leader who empowered the youth of Sokodé from 1950 until his death in 1961. Born in 1895, he grew up in Didawurê where he studied tailoring at the Koranic school. After his pilgrimage to Mecca and the loss of his four kids, he migrated to Kumasi in 1943 to pursue economic activities. Initially successful, he later went bankrupt and returned to Togo in 1949. It is estimated that his religious convictions grew around this time period of his life. 

El Hadj Boukari wearing “The Napoleon”

Boukari was famous for launching and leading a ‘crusade’ against fetishes in the Sokode region and the conversions which soon followed his victories. Under his influence, Sokode became a center of Islam where reputable “Aladji” from Northern-Dahomey and Northern Ghana and the famous Yendi ( El Hadj Abdoulaye) came to preach each year. In 1961, he was thrown in jail for slapping Jérôme-Théodore Lingenheim, the bishop of Sokodé. He died two weeks later on May 13, 1961.

Komah Palace, 1955. From left to right: Zachari Cissé Tondoro, El Hadj Boukari, Issifou Ayéva, Assosso Ayéva, Assosso Yacoubou Touré (Zato Alassani's grandson), and Tchakala Morou.
Komah Palace, 1955. From left to right: Zachari Cissé Tondoro, El Hadj Boukari, Issifou Ayéva, Assosso Ayéva, Assosso Yacoubou Touré (Zato Alassani’s grandson), and Tchakala Morou.

Legacy

The Muslim population in Sokodé went from less than 5000 in 1949 to 20,000 in 1961 in between Isifu Ayeva’s accession to the superior chieftaincy and Modjolobo’s death.⁠

Terms & Definitions

*Didawurê- Autonomous village headed by a chief and a superior chief. There were 3 in total. One in a location that would later become Sokode, another in Bafilo and a third at Bulohu.

*Modjolobo – A shrine built on the site of the disappearance of Ouro-Agoro Dam, founder of the chieftaincy of Kpangalam.

Sources

Jean Claude Barbier, “El-Hadj Bukari dit Modjolobo ou la guerre des Fétiches À Sokodé.”

Theodore Nicoué Gayibor, Histoire des Togolais. Des origines aux années 1960 (Tome 4: Le refus de l’ordre colonial).