For more than three years, the country is facing many terrorist threats. In April, they intensified in the north besieged by armed men killing dozens of people and causing many displaced.
The northern part of Burkina Faso, close to the Malian border, is the target of terrorist attacks of various origins. The conflicts that have existed since the dawn of time are essentially linked to land and customary chiefdoms. Conflicts between farmers and pastoralists are recurrent, especially during the rainy season.
During the last three years, the Ansaroul Islam group of the radical preacher, Maalam Ibrahim Dicko, has settled in the Soum province. He advocates jihad and attacks other members of the Muslim community and all religious denominations who do not adhere to his cause.
Initially, local officials and State symbols are those who were attacked, some soldiers killed, and equipment taken away. Teachers left classes. More than 1 200 schools closed, 5 032 teachers affected and 154 235 students, of whom 46.6% are girls, are on the street in 2019, according to the Minister of Education, Stanislas Ouaro.
Since then, the situation is becoming more complicated day by day. Last April, the attacks took an even more worrying proportion. This is the first time a church has been attacked in Silgadji, killing 5 people, including the pastor. Then in Kongonssi located at 100 km between Djibo and Ouagadougou. The last time, it was a church in Toulfé, in the north, 50km from Ouahigouya, which was attacked, killing 3 people and leaving 10 wounded. More than 15 stolen vehicles between April and June, in the north, between Kongoussi, Arbinda and Mentao.
Fear on Djibo
In the city of Djibo, people hide in their homes from 7 pm, because of the curfew that starts from 8 pm to 6 am. “My wife died in my arms at 11pm. I didn’t know how to get her to the hospital because of the curfew. If you go out, you’re dead”, Moussa Tamboura tells us.
Very often, putrefying bodies lie on the roads of the countryside. Not a single day goes by without there being an attack, despite the presence of the military in the area. All the traditional chiefs have left the area as well as the mayors of the 09 communes.
Arbinda is located 91 km east of Djibo. The city has been inaccessible for more than two months. It has been besieged by the terrorists. The 170 000 inhabitants of the 47 villages are concentrated in the center. The terrorists search vehicles, kidnap people and kill them sometimes. On June 8, 03 trucks carrying food from Dori were burned by armed men, one of the drivers slaughtered. For the mayor of Arbinda, Werem Boureima, there must be a definitive securing of the area.
The army pointed at
On the ground, the collaboration between the army and the population has been severely tested from the beginning. Those who are suspected of providing information to the military are targets. Adding to this is the abuse of the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) in the fight against terrorism, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Cissé Amadou, a resident of Kourfael, a village attached to Djibo indicates that his father was executed by the military at his workplace. He explains: “Soldiers came to make the report on corpse dressed in military uniform. The corpse was trapped, and the explosion killed a military nurse. It was 200 meters from the antenna of a mobile phone network that my father was guarding. They took him, and we haven’t heard from him again. Two months later, a family member found his rotting body in the bush. He recognized him by his clothes. I buried the remains of my father”.
According to testimonies collected on the spot, several young people joined the ranks of the terrorists because of this situation. Some have dropped out of university to “avenge” the death of a relative or someone close. A. D. wished to remain anonymous. This student also accuses the FDS of having shot his brother. Another is missing. “He was everything to me and I don’t know who to confide in to continue my studies, I am troubled, I don’t even know how to work”, he worries.
The sons of a Koutougou city councilor were enlisted in jihadist groups after their father was killed. One of the deceased’s sons served at the Djibo Police Station as a volunteer for two years before leaving to turn against his former collaborators.
Meanwhile, the Doofu operation or “uproot” in Fulani language continues in the area. “The threat is still weighing, and it is soon the rainy season”, feared Amadou Maiga, a resident of Barboule. “We will not be able to cultivate our farms and our children are not doing anything, how are we going to find food?” He asks, adding: “Students in exam class will not be able to write their exam. Even in the city of Djibo, schools have been closed since the beginning of the third quarter”. The only bank in Djibo has closed since April. Previously, it was the staff of the Djibo High Court who went to Ouagadougou.
Between 2016 and 2019, inter-religious and ethnic conflicts intensified with the advent of terrorism, leaving more than 1 000 dead, 170 000 displaced and extensive material damages. Northern Burkina Faso and the Sahel are the most affected areas. In Beleganygué in the Kelbo commune, in Foubé and Barsalogho in the center-north, nearly 30 000 displaced persons who have fled the conflict zones are split between sites and foster homes.
The intensification of the attacks by unidentified armed men in the city of Arbinda has caused more than 20 000 displaced, including 15 000 on the site of Foubé. Our attempts to meet the occupants of the displaced persons site were unsuccessful. At the time we were in discussion with officials, an alert from Arbinda reported 19 dead in an attack, when 17 km separate Arbinda from Foubé. We then progressed to Barsalogho, where we met the displaced persons after the attacks in Yirgou in early January, leaving 70 dead, according to the government.
As a reminder, on December 31, 2018, the village chief of Yirgou and five members of his family were shot dead by an armed commando. The village people, accompanied by the self-defense group Koglweogo, attacked the local Fulani community. it is accused of protecting the assailants who killed the village chief and his family members, all Mossi.
- “As long as Mali is not stabilized, it will be difficult to solve the problem in northern Burkina Faso”
- G5 Sahel: what to do for Liptako-Gourma and other border regions?
Since then, the survivors have settled on the Barsalogho site. We went to meet them on June 10. According to them, all the promises made by the government and the Dima of Boussouma remained unfulfilled. In addition, they always claim to be persecuted by the Koglweogo and the army. “When the tragic event of Yirgou happened, President Roch came to my house, I told him everything. He promised to send the military. Since the military arrived, the killings have only continued, men are fleeing their homes during the day to return at night. In the markets and in the houses, they search for men to go to slaughter”, tells us, Alou Diallo who presents himself as the head of the community on the displaced persons’ site.
On February 9, the Dima Sonré of Boussouma, one of the five highest Mossi leaders in Burkina Faso, initiated a day of forgiveness and reconciliation between the (Fulani and Mossis) communities in Barsalogho. A delegation of customary and religious authorities went to Yirgou to invite people to unity, forgiveness, tolerance and reconciliation.
From Barsalogho to Korko, via Foubé, the traditional and religious leaders prayed for peace in Burkina Faso. But four months later, the situation hasn’t changed. Dicko Boukari, 78, says that “since the King of Boussouma’s passage, things have gone from bad to worse. The Koglweogo abducted two youths from the displaced persons’ site and shot them dead only on June 10”.
In a melancholic voice, dry throat, Diallo Mariama Abdul Karim hasn’t finished crying about the death of her daddy “My father was arrested by the Koglweogo of Arma. They hurt him and abandoned him in the bush. We found him after two nights. We brought him to Barsalogho where he died. It was June 4, four residents of the site, all men, were executed not far from the displaced persons’ camp. The 4th succumbed to his injuries after his evacuation to Ouagadougou.
On the site, health workers are not permanent. On June 12, there was no one for consultation. In our presence, Hassan Dicko doesn’t hide his concern and his outrage. “The site is large enough that no nurse sleeps here, even if they don’t sleep here, they should spend the whole day here. The day before yesterday, one of our children had a fracture because he went to pick up some leaves for the sauce. Now he is in Kaya for treatment. We are forbidden to go out of the site, and if someone gets sick here, in the absence of the nurses? We are also told that our security will only be guaranteed when we are inside the camp”.
During a meeting with the active forces of Soum, some associations have considered a series of activities to find a way out of the crisis. The secretary general of the network has, in addition asked for the government’s involvement.
*Produced with the support of the IMS Sahel Program, financed by DANIDA.