Six members of a security force in Burkina Faso were killed on Sunday in an attack on a mining vehicle convoy, while seven other gendarmes were wounded amid the violence. The convoy of empty fuel trucks was returning from a gold mine in the eastern part of the nation when an improvised explosive device went off, followed by heavy gunfire. This ambush comes after a similar event in November of 2019, where vehicles from the same mine were subject to an attack that left 39 people dead. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the raid that occurred this week, previous assaults have been associated with operations by al Qaeda and Islamic State. According to the International Crisis Group, a significant amount of Burkina Faso’s recent violence has spawned from community-based land disputes and local conflicts that spiral into larger clashes. Poor governmental leadership has perpetuated extremist attacks that induce the suffering of the whole nation.
The level of violence in Burkina Faso has steadily increased to reach a point of chaos, plunging the country into a humanitarian crisis full of internal displacement and civil rights abuses. Corinne Dufka, Human Rights Watch’s West Africa director, stated that “Burkina Faso is in the grips of a dangerous threat from armed Islamist fighters who are murdering civilians and threatening to destabilize other West African countries. But the government’s abusive counterinsurgency strategy, notably the summary execution of suspects, risks inflaming the conflict by driving more people into the hands of Islamist militant recruiters.” Improper responses from the current administration, combined with societal instability, have left the West African state in a dangerous position.
Burkina Faso must work towards the reduction and eventual end of violence in the country. Recent efforts by the government have only furthered the destructive brutality that threatens Burkinabe citizens, leading to their continued suffering. Failure to implement effective strategies and instead resorting to combative actions has only fueled the nation’s humanitarian disaster. Moreover, the systematic issues that plague the country and exacerbate jihadist insurgencies must be understood and addressed. Human Rights Watch has attributed the deaths of over 160 people to executions committed by extremist groups. However, additional militant action will not remedy the conflict nor its causes. The social root of the problem must be addressed in order for the repetitive violence to end.
Human rights violations in Burkina Faso have prevailed in recent years; the U.S. Department of State has detailed the list to include arbitrary and extrajudicial killings by the government and extremists, forced disappearances, state torture and cases of cruel treatment, inhuman prison conditions, corruption, and child labour. Extremist groups have contributed to over 500 attacks that have resulted in hundreds of civilian and military deaths. Furthermore, over the past five years, more than 1.4 million people have been displaced, while 3 million are facing severe hunger. The situation in Burkina Faso is grave as much of the country’s populace is in peril.
A resolution to the conflict and crisis in Burkina Faso must begin with a careful reconstruction of the government’s violent policies. Even with international support, funding more fighting is not the answer; the United Nations, along with Western and regional actors, have deployed thousands of troops in the region with little success, as disorder and attacks persist. Peace in the country will take the efforts of multiple internal and external powers, but any short-term, efficient investment will be beneficial to promote the betterment of Burkina Faso’s future. Along with this change must come an increased effort to protect civilians; the millions of people who are currently suffering require serious attention. The reduction of governmental violence that sparks additional conflicts, as well as a focus on the politics at the centre of the crisis, are critical to creating lasting change. Without these adjustments and the establishment of trust between all parties, the country’s continued deterioration will leave it in a place of instability and uncertainty.