Burkina Faso caught between terror and protests for change | Africa | DW


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A wave of militant Islamic violence in Burkina Faso takes on a new dimension.

The situation is particularly worrying in Nadiagou, located in the south-east, not far from the border with Benin and Togo.

DW reported that al-Qaeda-linked jihadist JNIM militia from Mali brought a town under its control for the first time. The men fled, the churches closed.

Protesters are frustrated by the state’s failure to stop the violence.

“The jihadists control the village,” a resident who fled to the capital, Ouagadougou, told DW but has remained in contact with relatives.

“There are only women, children and the elderly left.”

Although there has been no official confirmation, a reliable source in security circles has corroborated the account.

The evolution shows how easily the militias seem to extend their hold in the region. JNIM has carried out attacks in the north and northwest, while the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) is mainly active in the east and the border region of neighboring Niger.

“Our country is at war, and it is disappearing more and more. We have already lost a large part of the land,” said Ibrahima Maiga, who now lives in the United States and is a co-founder of the Save Burkina Faso movement (Save Burkina Faso).

Call for the resignation of President Kaboré

For weeks, the civil society group has been exerting massive pressure on the Kaboré government, in power since 2015.

This weekend, Save Burkina Faso plans to organize new events.

“We have decided to continue to demonstrate until there is a real change. For us, this is only possible if President Kaboré steps down. That is why we are maintaining this momentum,” said Maiga. to DW.

More than 2,000 people have died from terrorism since 2016. Some 285 people have died between July and September alone, according to children’s agency UNICEF.

Nearly 1.5 million people are on the run, around 2,700 schools are closed and more than 300,000 children and young people are no longer receiving education. The terrorist threat is the most important security crisis since Burkina Faso gained independence from France in 1960.

The attack that changed everything

The trigger for the enormous pressure on the government was the November 14 attack on security forces in Inata, in the north, near the Malian border.

The assault was the deadliest attack Burkina Faso’s security forces have suffered since the insurgency began in 2015.

The jihadists killed at least 49 gendarmes and four civilians.

The attack fueled anger against the government in Ouagadougou and the French military forces that support it. Protests against Kaboré’s government have been sporadic since then.

For many Burkinabés, like Prosper Nikiema, the activists had finally crossed a line. He said the ambush against a military police station showed something had been wrong for too long.

“Of course there have always been danger signs. But these were not taken seriously at all,” Nikiema told DW.

For him too, only one thing is logical: the resignation of Kaboré. However, he thinks that Kaboré lacks courage.

Nikiema suggested the need to find men capable of effectively fighting terrorism. For example, with a transnational counterterrorism operation.

On Tuesday, Security Minister Maxime Koné announced that Ghana, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire participated in such a mission with more than 5,700 troops. As a result, they arrested at least 300 suspects and confiscated illegal firearms. However, this operation was planned before the recent protests.

A car set on fire in front of the French embassy in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso has become the target of frequent terrorist attacks like this one in the capital Ouagadougou

Fight beyond borders

Amadou Diemdioda Dicko, member of the opposition Union for Progress and Change (UPC), believes that cross-border initiatives are crucial.

“The situation is also very similar in Mali and Niger,” Dicko told DW. “People need to understand that we can only fight terrorism together.”

According to him, it is not only the responsibility of the government: “We must involve the population by reporting suspicious persons, for example. Weapons alone will not provide a solution.

This is evident in neighboring Mali. Despite international military missions and training programs for the armed forces, the security situation has deteriorated in recent years.

To quickly set an example, Kabore appointed Lt. Col. Wendwaoga Kere as inspector general to address grievances within the armed forces. For parliamentarian Diemdioda Dicko, Kere’s appointment is a step in the right direction.

“Action is required of the president, after all,” he said.

Burkinabè President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré

President Kaboré is under increasing pressure to resign due to his government’s handling of jihadist attacks

New faces instead of fundamental changes

But for Ibrahima Maiga of the Save Burkina Faso movement, this is not enough: “He has changed cabinet director four times. He had four defense ministers. We have tried everything and replaced everything. But not him yet.

Maiga, on the contrary, called for a government of national unity. However, he noted that it is difficult to find someone to lead him. “The opposition and the government are the same,” he added.

Eric Ismael Kinda, spokesperson for the citizen movement Balai Citoyen (Citizen’s Balai), also acknowledged that the replacement of people was insufficient. Instead, he said, skill was needed.

Balai Citoyen led peaceful protests that forced former President Blaise Compaoré to resign in 2014. However, Burkina Faso’s best-known civil society organization has yet to join the protests.

“No organization has contacted us about this,” Kinda told DW.

Balai Citoyen has always been proud that its power lies in the massive support of civilians. It remains to be seen how many people Save Burkina Faso will mobilize for future events.

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