This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard is joined by Jean-Hervé Jezequel, Crisis Group’s Sahel director, to discuss Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso’s withdrawal from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, their fight against al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked militants and the future of military rule in the Sahel.
Violence reached levels unseen since jihadist insurgency started in 2015, with hundreds killed in one day as militants launched nine simultaneous attacks and govt forces and allies reportedly conducted large-scale massacres.
Violence reached levels unseen since 2015, leaving hundreds dead. Jihadist militants from al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State Sahel Province 25 Feb launched nine attacks across country, notably targeting places of worship. Raid on mosque in Natiaboani town, Gourma province (East region), left up to 100 dead, including civilians, soldiers and civilian auxiliaries (VDPs), and attack on catholic church in Essakane village, Oudalan province (Sahel region) killed at least fifteen people. Jihadist militants same day also targeted military, notably killing 51 soldiers in Tankoualou area, Komandjari province (East region). Suspected army and VDPs also 25 Feb allegedly attacked three villages in Yatenga province (North region), with provisional toll of around 170 people killed. Reports of attacks on two villages in Gayéri area of Komandjari province (East) late Feb also emerged, with unconfirmed death toll of 150.
Silencing of dissent continued. National council of lawyers 15 Feb led countrywide strike to demand release of lawyer and civil society activist Guy-Hervé Kam, who was arrested in Jan on undisclosed charges. Rights defender Daouda Diallo, former FM Ablassé Ouédraogo and civil society leader Issiaka Ouédraogo 18 Feb appeared in videos circulated on Internet in combat gear, confirming they have been forcibly enrolled as VDPs since their arrest in late 2023.
ECOWAS urged govt to reconsider decision to leave group. After Burkina Faso alongside Mali and Niger late Jan announced withdrawal from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), regional bloc 8 Feb called on trio to “prioritise dialogue and reconciliation”, and ECOWAS chairman, Nigerian President Tinubu, 24 Feb urged departing countries to “reconsider the decision”. Tinubu’s comments were made at extraordinary summit of ECOWAS heads of state, during which bloc lifted most sanctions imposed on Niger in 2023 (see Niger). Conciliatory approach has yet to bear fruit, however. Notably, Ouagadougou, Bamako and Niamey 15 Feb discussed framework to create three-state federation at Alliance of Sahel States ministerial summit, said decision to leave ECOWAS was irreversible.
Tensions within the army [in Burkina Faso] have exacerbated over the past months because President Damiba has not been able to restore security in the country.
President Ibrahim Traoré has reinforced the role of Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDPs) in Burkina Faso's fight with jihadists. While VDP militias help secure national territory, their actions also fuel violence. With the help of external partners, the authorities should rein them in.
Crisis-ridden Mali and Burkina Faso face jihadist insurgency and political turmoil. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Spring Update, Crisis Group outlines what the EU and its member states can do to prevent these two countries from falling into further regional isolation.
Insurgents have established bases in an important nature reserve spanning parts of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. They pose a growing danger to local ecosystems and people living around the park. The three countries need to collaborate more closely to keep the threat at bay.
On 4 September, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba gave a speech reviewing his actions since he seized power on 24 January 2022. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Mathieu Pellerin and Rinaldo Depagne analyse this milestone.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks with Crisis Group expert Rinaldo Depagne about the coup in Burkina Faso, the latest in a series of military takeovers in Africa.
On 24 January, a military junta overthrew Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. In this Q&A, Crisis Group experts Mathieu Pellerin and Rinaldo Depagne explain how this latest coup confirms the failure of democratically elected regimes in West Africa.
Since 2013, when it sent troops to Mali, France has led international efforts to root out Islamist militancy from the Sahel. Yet the jihadist threat has grown. Paris and its partners should reorient their military-centred approach toward helping improve governance in the region.
Le Burkina Faso et le Niger se dirigent tous deux vers des élections générales. Rinaldo Depagne et Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim décryptent leurs enjeux et insistent sur la nécessité pour leurs vainqueurs de se pencher sur l’insécurité croissante dans les régions rurales, provoquée en grande partie par la présence de groupes jihadistes.
The proliferation of armed groups and the expanding footprint of jihadist groups fuelled violence in Burkina Faso in 2019. The government should adopt a more integrated approach to security and tackle the crisis in rural areas by resolving land disputes.
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