Burkina Faso Now Epicentre of Insurgency in Sahel

In recent years, insurgency has been a tremendous increase, with the death tolls in neighbouring Mali overshadowing those of Burkina Faso, conflict statistics aggregator – the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project has said.

By the end of 2021, Burkina Faso had recorded more than 1,315 violent incidents, double what it had in 2020. Explosions, car bombs, and direct attacks on civilians have caused the deaths of over 2,354 people, overtaking Mali for the second time in three years, the aggregator said.

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According to a UN report published in December 2021, armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIL have succeeded in instilling fear in Burkina Faso by seizing large areas of land. This displacement has rendered 1.7 million people homeless. The same report indicates that out of the 20 million Burkinabes, more than 4.7 million are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. 

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On the other hand, certain nuances should also not be overlooked.  Several human rights groups on the ground claim that local security forces are often the source of violence in West Africa. Human Rights Watch reports that the Burkinabe army killed as many people as terrorist groups in 2017. While the vast majority of their victims are Al-Qaeda and ISIL members, military reprisals also affect an ethnic group: the nomadic Fulani (Peul) people.

Between November 2019 and June 2020, mass graves full of Fulani were found in Djibo. It is believed that the graves were the result of military assaults by Burkina Faso. The violence has exacerbated ethnic and religious divisions in the country – divisions that are further exploited by the affiliated insurgents during the recruitment process since there is no accountability and no state supervision.

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