Eastern Burkina Faso, where two Spanish journalists were captured and subsequently killed after being attacked on a patrol on Monday, was the site of heightened uncertainty due to increased operations by jihadist groups, which also exacerbated community tensions.
The Spanish journalists, whose identity has not been officially confirmed, were reported missing along with an Irishman and a member of the security forces following an attack on a mixed patrol of the anti-poaching unit in Kompienga province (southeast).
The uncertainty situation, which also affects the north of the country and has spread in recent months to the border with Ivory Coast in the south, has worsened drastically since Roch Marc Christian Kaboré came to power in December 2015 following the previous year’s coup against Blaise Compaoré.
As a result, the country was not previously affected by the actions of jihadist groups operating in other countries in the Sahel, particularly Mali. This has been attributed in recent years to an alleged non-aggression pact between Compaoré and these terrorist formations.
However, since then, Burkina Faso has been the site of hundreds of attacks, including the one against a café and hotel in the capital Ouagadougou in January 2016, just days after the inauguration of Kaboré, who was re-elected last year in an insecure vote.
The complexity of the security situation has led the authorities to pass a law on recruiting “volunteers” to support the efforts of the army and police joining self-defense groups called Koglweogo, particularly dedicated to ensuring stability in rural areas .
However, this Kaboré initiative has had a negative impact on the conflict, as abuses allegedly committed by the army and these self-defense groups in their security operations have increased community tensions and enabled the jihadists to recruit new fighters.
The epicenter of these tensions is the Fulani community, also known as Peul, over allegations made by other communities and the authorities against them of being among the main members of these terrorist groups, leading to attacks and revenge on them and a cycle of retaliation.
An example of this was the murder of around 50 members of the Fulani community by a pro-government militia in response to a jihadist attack in 2019. The Fulani have faced such allegations in other countries in the region, including Mali, which have received feedback on these Momentum and has benefited the armed groups that have tried to destabilize the situation at the local level.
In addition, the government has launched an investigation into complaints about the deaths of civilians by the army, including complaints filed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) about the April 2020 execution of more than 30 inmates in Djibo (north) as part of an arrest Anti-terrorist operation.
The African country has also been the scene of internal struggles between jihadist groups for control of various areas, including fighting between branches of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the region, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the Support Group Islam or the Muslims (JNIM).
The Islamic State, recognized in May 2020, is fighting with the JNIM, the first in this area of the continent to date, and after a series of media reports from both countries about clashes between the two groups, the group members called “apostates” in Mali and Burkina Faso.
In Burkina Faso there is Ansarul Islam, an indigenous terrorist group, and JNIM, a jihadist organization that brings together four others, including Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al Murabitún and, to a lesser extent, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS ).
This broke a fragile cordial agreement between the two groups that existed in other countries, mainly Syria, despite not achieving full cooperation in coordinating and conducting attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso.
This situation has led the G5 Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – to step up their cooperation to address the threat recreated in the Lake Chad basin, where Boko Haram and his spin-off are , the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which has also increasingly attacked in recent months.
On the other hand, the Burkinabe Prime Minister Christophe Dabiré opened the door to a process of dialogue with these groups as a possible solution to the crisis in February without official contacts having been established for the time being. “We are not saying that Burkina Faso is against negotiating with terrorists,” he said.
During a session in parliament, Dabiré defended, in view of his confirmation in office after the last elections, that “even the big countries in countries like Afghanistan (…) have reached a time when they are at the (negotiating table with the terrorists” having regard to the peace agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban in February 2020.
With this in mind, he stressed that “all wars end over a (negotiating) table” and added that “this implies that sooner or later you will have to think about the possibility if you want to get out of this situation (… .) to start discussions “.
Dabiré also argued that this conversation process could begin “if those responsible for the current situation were clearly known”, in an obvious reference to the need for terrorist groups to designate a delegation or team to maintain these contacts with .
Despite the lack of official contacts, The New Humanitarian agency announced in March that high-level government officials had been holding secret meetings with jihadists, contacts that began before the November 2020 presidential election and that would have allowed some ceasefires to be reached. ‘De facto’ in different areas of the country.
These talks involved groups integrated into the JNIM – including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Macina Front, Ansar Dine and Al Murabitún – although it is not known whether, according to diplomatic sources, members of the ISGS are analysts, humanitarian workers and Sources from these jihadist groups.
Even so, executive spokesman Ousseni Tamboura has denied that negotiations are ongoing, despite stressing that authorities have asked religious and community leaders to turn to recruits from these groups to surrender their weapons and help rebuild the Landes in a tone of reconciliation supported by Kaboré in recent months.
Along with Niger and Mali, Burkina Faso is also at the center of one of the fastest growing refugee and internally displaced persons crises in the world, with nearly three million refugees and displaced persons. It is about restoring peace and stability and helping the victims.