Burkina Faso’s Militant Security Crisis Shows No Signs of Stopping After Military Coup

Since Burkina Faso’s January 2022 military coup that overthrew previous President Roch Kaboré, the threat of armed groups has only worsened. Just months after coup leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba swore to maintain the integrity of Burkina Faso’s sovereignty against the security crisis, on June 11 at least 135 people were killed in numerous militant attacks led by al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State” in the northern village Seytenga.

According to Al Jazeera, survivors mentioned the attackers terrorizing, slaughtering, and torching shops belonging to civilians. Burkina Faso’s struggle with Islamist militant insurgent groups has been a major cause of insecurity since 2015. With thousands killed and millions displaced since 2015, under transitional President Damiba, decreasing mortality and displacement rates do not seem in sight. Since Damiba’s military takeover, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project has reported a 23% increase in militant attacks, with the recent Seytenga attack as the the second-worse death toll since 2015.

Following the Seytenga attack this past June, the transitional government has announced an evacuation order for the creation of two military zones in northern Burkina Faso to combat the ongoing jihadist violence. In addition to enacting blockades and isolating local inhabitants from the zones, Damiba declared that “all human presence is forbidden” transforming the military zones into battlegrounds. Civilians were given two weeks to flee the military zones, with the choice “to find safety and access basic services, or take the risk and remain in their homes but then be perceived by state forces as collaborators or supporters of armed groups” as told by Rida Lyammouri to Al Jazeera.

Imminent evacuation continues to fuel Burkina Faso’s rapidly increasing numbers of internally displaced people, with 1.9 million people already displaced because of the conflict. Burkina Faso confronts one the fastest-growing numbers of IDPs, neglected by the international community; only 22% of the promised funding towards the displaced populations has been allocated. As 3.5 million of Burkina Faso’s 21 million continue to face food insecurity and starvation, 3,683 schools have been closed leaving a further 600,000 students without access to education. Further, with lack of education and aid, 160 health centers have closed, unable to tend to innocents that continue to physically and mentally pay for the conflict.

The African Union’s Conventions for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, also known as the Kampala Convention, exists as a crucial legal framework in the protection of IDP throughout Africa. The Kampala Convention explicitly outlines the necessary measures nations like Burkina Faso must take to protect displaced persons all over the country against the risks of the conflict. Such a legal and obligatory framework pushes Damiba to confront the security crises in a manner that fulfills the promises made in the beginning of the takeover. Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou, appointed by the Economic Community of West African States as a mediator, claims that the transitional government has no control over a third of the country.

As violence continues to trickle throughout Burkina Faso, the attempted containment with the military zones does not seem like a sustainable option. Concentrated pockets of militant presence on Burkina Faso’s borders with Mali and Niger operate without much limitations from the military. Attacks on civilians within the tri-border area highlight the extremity of the security crisis that plagues Burkina Faso, and the lack of constructive presence of the new transitional government and long-term solution of the imposed military zones. The worsening of displacement, mortality, and starvation rates increase in the seven months of the transitional government takeover, and continuation of patterns of the overthrown government in matters of humanitarian safety, can not effectively tackle the growing threat that jihadist militant groups will continue to pose to Burkina Faso’s internal peace. The implementation of the Kampala Convention is one way of ensuring long-term and legal protection to those that will continue to face the brunt end of the conflict for as long as it continues.