Web review

20 January 2020

Since 2015, Burkina Faso has been a target of the increasing number of attacks conducted by armed groups. Those attacks, in  the more general context of regional violence that has spread out in the Sahel area, have also affected the neighbouring Mali and Niger.  According to the United Nations, approximately 4000 people have been killed in these three countries last year. Moreover, the violence, which until now had been limited to killings of the military, have begun to target the civilian population. One of the most recent and deadliest attacks happened in November, when armed men ambushed a convoy transporting workers of Canadian gold miner Semafo in eastern Burkina Faso, and resulted in the death of 37 civilians and the wounding of 60s. Although, as noted by Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, the attacks taking place in the eastern part of the country, bordering Benin and Niger, are highly unusual, the shift in the balance of power could be explained with the recent flow of jihadist movements from neighbouring, trouble-torned Mali. As reported by The New Humanitarian, in fact, those groups, even though originally located in Burkina Faso’s northern regions, where they remain most active, expanded into the east, “tapping into a long list of local grievances linked to poverty, poor social services, and the conservation of protected parks”. According to Héni Nsaibia, a researcher at the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the recent surge in violence has been triggered by tit-for-tat attacks between extremists and the Koglweogo - a self-defence militia that opposes the jihadists but is accused of widespread human rights abuses. “It seems to be part of a broader effort by jihadists to get rid of the militias in areas under their influence,'' said Nsaibia.

In recent months, the allied groups, Islamic State in Western Africa (Iswap) and Islamic State of Gran Sahara (Eigs), have been responsible for the displacement of thousands of people, creating new humanitarian emergencies in the eastern part of Burkina Faso. As a result, over half a million people have been displaced across the country in one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement crises. Most of them are concentrated in the north, where extremists launch the majority of their attacks and where aid organizations have focused their activities. In this context, only a small percentage of the attacks has been claimed by armed groups, especially radical Islamist groups such as  Ansural Islam, Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin and the Islamic State in Gran Sahara, while most attacks can be attributed to smugglers and common criminal bands as well as toformer soldiers loyal to president Blaise Compaoré’s regime, which ended in 2014.

With the above in mind, the situation in the east, where large gaps in humanitarian assistance remain, remains critical. Namely, no shelter has been offered to people who had been displaced for weeks while only a small number of households had received plastic tarps and rope in the preceding months. Manenji Mangundu, Norwegian Refugee Council’s country director for Burkina Faso and Niger, stated that “while the needs are increasing dramatically everywhere in the country, the international community and donors are still far from responding accordingly”. Mangundu warned that the aid response will be seriously hampered if the international community does not start placing as much emphasis on the humanitarian situation as on the security issues, which is a common complaint made by aid groups and Sahel analysts. “Most of the attention has been on the military response”, Mangundu said. “But displaced people in Burkina Faso need more food than they do soldiers”.



Further reading:
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/burkina-faso-37-killed-attack-canadian-mining-convoy-191106225055900.html

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-semafo-attack/at-least-37-killed-in-attack-on-canadian-miner-semafo-convoy-in-burkina-faso-idUSKBN1XG2BL

https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/2020/1/21/Burkina%20Faso-east-militancy-extremism

Author: Pasquale Candela; Editor: Aleksandra Kròl

Category: Burkina Faso - Web Review
Thursday, 06 February 2020