Between June 4th-5th, over a dozen men, women and children were killed in one of the deadliest attacks in Burkina Faso since the conflict with armed groups that began in 2015. In Ouagadougou, armed assailants began attacking workers in a goldmine on the outskirts of Solhan, a village in the northern area of Burkina Faso. This informal goldmine site is one of about the 1,000 that exist in Burkina Faso, and it is speculated that they were targeted for fighters to gain funds. Authorities have placed a halt on gold mining in the Yagha province for now, as well as a new ban on the use of motorcycles which is the main method of transportation for fighters.
After the goldmine, they went into the village market and proceeded to burn shops and houses. Burkina Faso has been engulfed in a conflict that has spread across the Sahel region in West Africa, and recently government officials have provided a death toll at 132; however, news outlets citing local sources believe this number could be as high as 160. This brings the number of people killed by armed groups in Burkina Faso since the start of 2021 to more than 500.
Analyst for the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, Heni Nsaibia, stated the Solhan massacre has illustrated how “security across the Sahel has not improved despite the presence of thousands of international and regional troops.” To date, no armed group has claimed responsibility for the Solhan massacre. The government has declared three days of national mourning, with President Roch Marc Christian Kabore denouncing the massacre, calling for unity “against these obscurantist forces.”
Armed groups involved with ISIL and al-Qaeda have been present in large portions of the north and east of Burkina Faso, which is considered to be the epicentre of conflict in the region. This massacre follows the killing of 14 people in the village of Tadaryat, where armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL have been involved in harming civilians. The military in Burkina Faso is considered to be undertrained in facing these threats.
The crisis has already caused the internal displacement of 1.2 million people and following this massacre, more than 7,000 families have fled to nearby villages. Prime Minister Christophe Dabiré has stated that “Steps have already been taken to give [displaced people] a minimum level of comfort, lodgings, and food.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and its partners have built 200 shelters so far assisting, however more resources are needed in response. 84 percent of those displaced are women and children.