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In Le Proces, or "The Trial", a bar in Ouagadougou, artist and co-founder Patrick Kabre works the crowd, raising belly laughs with his observations about Burkina Faso today.
"We're debating the state of the nation. We need a judge to issue the ruling -- and we have one right here!", he says.
Microphone in hand, Kabre has no shortage of absurd or dark material in a country where the frontier of chaos seems to come ever closer.
In less than nine months, the impoverished landlocked Sahel state has been through two military coups, each prompted by the failure of the ousted regime to tackle deadly jihadist attacks.
In front of the master of ceremonies, a colossal character wearing black-and-red judge's robes sways gently to music, surrounded by a score of smiling onlookers.
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This is bartender Dao Moumine, who has abandoned his counter for a few moments.
"You are at 'The Trial', I am The Judge," the gown-wearing giant tells AFP.
"I serve up justice," he said, referring to beer, "and the International Criminal Court," the house's rum special.
This unusual venue for free debate, music and slam poetry first opened in 2019.
After a rainy-season break, it reopened on Saturday just a week after the country's latest coup.
The clinking of bottles and shots of rum give the setting an air of normality during one of the first music nights since the military takeover. Everyone shares the latest gossip and military rumours.
Unity through culture
For some Europeans present, it is their first night out. There has been an upsurge of slogans against former colonial power France, and a number of companies have urged their expatriate staff to stay at home.
The idea for the bar, open every weekend in the Goughin district, began among friends who wanted to "discuss the issues that have caused chaos in this country: justice, impunity," Kabre said.
The scene of a popular insurrection to end the long reign of Blaise Compaore in 2014, Burkina Faso was hit hard the following year by attacks from jihadist groups which spread from neighbouring Mali.
Violence and political instability gave rise to the two coups of 2022. The latest placed a 34-year-old captain, Ibrahim Traore, in power.
"The solution to all this is neither military nor political," said Ali Kiswinsida Ouedraogo, alias Doueslik, a 36-year-old slam poet, told AFP. "The solution is social... and it comes via culture."
Service is bar-counter only, enabling Judge Moumine, a specialist in po-faced comedy, to deliver edicts before serving the order.
There is a serious side to the clowning, he says: The Trial is both a safety valve and a forum, hopefully making people aware of the wider picture in Burkina Faso and its problems.
"Artists have to perform. Venues like this are important," said Ouedraogo.
Kabre wants The Trial to be a "rainbow" venue where all nationalities can gather and "talk to each other, listen to each other."
Everyone is welcome, says Kabre, who plays that evening with a German DJ.
He lists prestigious clients who have come to his establishment: army officers, ambassadors, even government ministers -- and, of course, judges.
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