This brief is about the West African and Sahelian nation of Burkina Faso. Several Western countries have recently issued travel warnings and MEA Risk has issued this first impression and additional comments on those warnings.
Burkina Faso is a complex place and is likely the weakest country in the Sahel. The recent warnings from Western governments are likely tied to expectations of more violence, lots of it driven by Islamic State, and by the intentions of the French to fight them. Combining both does not bode well for security in the country. In terms of security, Burkina’s record is staggering: 499 people (civilians and military) killed between November 2018 and March 2019; 1,933 schools were closed and 9,042 teachers were forced into unemployment, while more than 300,000 kids no longer able to go to school. Since April 2019, armed Islamist groups have killed more than 250 civilians in targeted attacks and summary executions.
The killings have often been justified by associating the victims with government and western forces. Hundreds of thousands of people have also been displaced. The destabilization of Burkina is linked to the violence in neighboring Mali. Borders are tough to control and terror groups appear to have a clearer strategy of geographic broadening and regionalizing the crisis, that is working to spread it around. This means with the crisis engulfing Mali, the terror groups have been working to export the mayhem to Niger, Burkina, Chad and northern Nigeria. Frankly the whole region is in state of collapse, and the French forces, the UN, etc.. cannot seem to find the best approach to stop it.
The conflict has now expanded into a more complex ethnic and communal crisis. This is because the insurgents and armed groups have been using the grievances and poverty among the Peul or Fulanis nomadic communities to broaden the crisis into a conflict between “tribes”. This has been fueling tensions with other largely agrarian communities, including the Mossis, Songhai, Foulsé, and Gourmantche, who were the victims of most of the attacks. The attacks have been cruel, with deliberate targeting of mine workers, farmers, IDPs, religious folks, etc…in a sort of slash-and-burn terror campaign.
In all our assessments, Burkina appears to be the weakest point in the entire Sahel and I think the State Department travel warning is indicative of both of the hardening of the Jihadists, and signals coming from the French government of more military assets headed to the region, hence expecting a nasty fight ahead. Beyond Burkina, there is the risk of contagion of the terrorist threat to non-Sahelian countries of West Africa, namely Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Togo. Côte d’Ivoire and Benin have already been the targets of terrorist actions. While in Togo, a jihadist group was dismantled in April 2019. There are also chatters on dormant terror cells in Ghana.
Finally, if you are operating and active in Burkina Faso, MEA Risk is pleased to announced that, in addition to its tracking and analysis, it offers the Shield and Alert mobile application for iPhone and Android devices, allowing you to visualize and follow what is going on the country any time, all time. Send us an email at inquiries@MEA-Risk.com or just call us at US+508-981-6937 to learn more.