Burkina Faso is suffering mounting insurgent attacks and social unrest. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to support the return of some Burkinabé troops from Mali and to fund social programs that could ease discontent.
As attacks against civilians and security forces attributed to jihadists continued to rise, especially in Sahel region in north and East region, security forces stepped up response and President Kaboré reshuffled army leadership. Notably, suspected members of jihadist coalition Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM) 3-4 Feb attacked Kain village, North region, reportedly killing fourteen civilians. Army 5 Feb said it killed 146 militants in air raids in Louroum and Yatenga provinces, North region and Sourou province, Boucle du Mouhoun region in north; local witnesses and NGO Human Rights Watch reported that 57 of 146 killed were civilians. JNIM 5 Feb attacked Oursi, Sahel region in north, killing five gendarmes; security forces said they repelled attack and killed 21 militants in counter-offensive. Military 19-20 Feb killed 29 suspected Islamist militants in Kompienbiga-Kabonga area, East region. Unidentified assailants 15 Feb killed Spanish priest and four customs officers in Nohao, Centre-East region, near border with Togo. After new govt was formed 24 Jan, Kaboré 7 Feb reshuffled army’s top command, notably Colonel Gilles Bationo appointed chief of land army and Colonel Major Oumarou Sawadogo as commander of Central Army Grouping. Former President Compaoré’s PM Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo 16 Jan announced his candidacy for 2020 presidential election. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said number of displaced persons in country reached 110,000 in Feb – nine times more than in Feb 2018 – and 1,025 schools were closed due to jihadist intimidation campaign. G5 Sahel summit in capital Ouagadougou 5 Feb marked start of Burkina Faso’s presidency of regional grouping; G5 Sahel leaders called for closer cooperation with UN, including assistance to G5 Sahel joint force.
Créée en février 2017, la Force conjointe du G5 Sahel est une force de nouvelle génération dans un espace sahélien où se bousculent des initiatives militaires et diplomatiques parfois concurrentes. Il ne suffira pas de fournir des armes et de l’argent pour résoudre les crises sahéliennes. Pour atteindre ses objectifs, la force doit gagner la confiance des populations et des puissances régionales et obtenir leur soutien.
Jihadist violence in the West African Sahel has now spread to the north of Burkina Faso. The response of Ouagadougou and its partners must go beyond the obvious religious and security dimensions of the crisis, and any solution must take into account deep-rooted social and local factors.
In a troubled region, Burkina Faso is a rare example of religious diversity and tolerance. But a perceived discrepancy between a significant number of Muslims and their low level of public representation has created tensions. To safeguard Burkina’s model of peaceful coexistence, the government must address this sensitive issue through careful reforms, particularly in the education system.
Burkina Faso’s democratically elected new government faces great challenges to deliver on justice, socio-economic needs and regional security. To succeed, authorities must resist the temptation to establish a new one-party hegemony. Instead, they should engage in social dialogue and political reconciliation, military reform, and friendly relations with neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire.
Burkina Faso’s faltering transition faces elections in less than four months amid political tensions and social agitation. A controversial electoral code could inject the poison of exclusion into a country that is attached to multiparty politics. It is time for political and civil society actors to begin a formal dialogue to reduce the risks.
Three months after Blaise Compaoré’s departure, Burkina Faso’s transition is moving forward in an uncertain context. The provisional government, with the help of its international partners, should initiate urgent reforms and ensure the October 2015 elections allow for peaceful, democratic change.
In Burkina Faso, the intelligence system did not rest on an institution but on the shoulders of one man, General Gilbert Diendere. We know that some of the 566 soldiers have joined jihadist groups.
There is a strong sense [in Burkina Faso] that the state has never really done much for the north. [...] Strengthening its military presence isn’t enough – they need to establish trust.
The new rulers [in Burkina Faso] want to use justice when it serves them but they don't want to sink their own ship.
Justice is important for the Burkinabe, and the lack of justice and impunity is one of the reasons people rose against [Burkina Faso's President] Compaore.
With jihadists and armed groups exploiting political and security vacuums across the Sahel, Mali and neighbouring states will continue to face insecurity. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to rethink international development strategies and to support local government initiatives that combat radicalisation.